Business Times

Shipping lines sidestep Colombo

The Port of Colombo has dropped its throughput in the first four months of this year by about 6% owing to route changes adopted by major shipping lines, an official said. The overall drop in volumes has been mainly due to certain shipping lines changing their routes without calling at the Colombo port, an official at the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) told the Business Times.

At least one shipping line, Maersk extended its route through Chennai contributing to the overall drop in the throughput at the Colombo port this year, it was pointed out. In addition, due to a slow-down in demand by the United States (US) and the European Union (EU), part of the cargo originating from Bangladesh and India passing through Colombo has dropped.

Official cumulative growth figures indicate that the Colombo Port had witnessed a growth of 27.3% in the first four months of 2010 but this year growth had dropped to 6.8% during the same period.
Slow volumes were blamed on less consumption patterns of US and the EU that has been attributed to a dip in international trade.

However, SLPA Chairman Dr. Priyath Bandu Wickrama pointed out the port was reaching maximum capacity and there was no room to accommodate any new shipping lines at the Colombo port due to berthing restrictions. He pointed out that currently they were turning down any new vessels adding that they are working on improving productivity at the port with new equipment, a yard capacity build up and creation of about 15-20% overall space for berthing.

Every year, Dr. Wickrama said they would grow upto March and then record a drop explaining that this year too slow growth was observed in April and May but insisted “we have picked up.” Shipping industry officials however, observe there is a very negative trend observed at the port with growth slowing down in the first few months compared to its regional counterparts in Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai Port, Port of Salalah and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust that have witnessed double-digit growths.

Currently the port is witnessing a pattern where shipping lines are relocating their volumes out of ports such as Singapore, West Port and Dubai, industry officials point out.

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