Financial Times

Colombo Port to transform into a logistics hub

The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) which has already commenced construction works of Colombo Port Expansion Project (South Harbour) is all set to devise a plan, which will take the port management and logistics sector into the 21st century.

Newly appointed Managing Director Captain Nihal Keppetipola told The Sunday Times FT that the new RFP (Request For Proposals) for the South Container terminal on BOT terms which is to be floated soon, will primarily take into consideration national interests, which means that bids will be scrutinized on the model that they will offer for the new terminal in the south harbour which is intended to move the Port of Colombo from a mere shipping hub to a fully fledged logistic hub. This multi million-dollar project, which initially had some hiccups in getting off the ground due to some unavoidable reasons and was cancelled last year, is being re-drawn with new parameters and will have a set of new clauses. A few of the clauses from the old document, which caused confusion earlier, have to be rectified.

"Some changes have to be made to the documents purely to safeguard national interests as we want to see all the best port operators in the world place their bids on our table. However, we have to put some clauses in order to get proper assurances from whoever will qualify to build and operate the South Container terminal,” he said .

When referring to national interests in connection with the new RFP, Mr. Keppetipola said what the SLPA is looking at most importantly is for the best package they could get both for the authority as well as the country - which would mean securing the leading position in the region that Sri Lanka holds as a shipping hub in the region.

"In the recent past there have been several media reports questioning the future transshipment business of the Colombo Port and the possibility of us losing out to ports developing in the Indian subcontinent. Despite the slight delays in the bidding process we can give the assurance that the SLPA is still on track and on top of the situation and able to face any future competition," he said.

However, the Ports MD also noted that they would be mindful of those operators who are managing rival ports in the region, when awarding the tender. "We want to keep the Port of Colombo as competitive as possible for the feeders and main lines. Our port is a national asset and cannot be considered purely from the point of view of a business venture but needs to take into consideration the macro economics of the country.” Mr Keppetipola further said that keeping in line with the current and future global maritime demands with the new development of the Colombo South Harbour, Sri Lanka would be catering to super post-panamax ships and would be transformed from the current transshipment hub to a total maritime logistic hub.

He added that despite what most may think, the Colombo harbour's workforce is one of the best in the region and the port is known to work with the least amount of disruption.

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