Liners see uncertainty at Colombo Port

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Main liner operators such as YML – SNS and PS Service, EMC – AEF Service and WHL CI6 have stopped services to Colombo Port after port operations halted on 11 May, owing to the political crisis, according to sources. 

On 11 May these vessels experienced a delay and had diverted to Ennore Port,India after being unable to dock in the Colombo Port.It was also announced that OOCLand CMA CIX3 services will continue operations, but the carrier may decide to cancel services at any given moment. “We are closely following with carrier ad-hoc basis and will ensure to inform regarding any service changes or cancelation the liners,” they announced.

Sri Lanka Port’s Authority (SLPA) trade unions said that some main liners left Colombo Port as a precautionary measure following their joint announcement on launching a strike on 11 May if President Gotabaya Rajapaksa does not step down. About five ships diverted, General Secretary of the All Ceylon General Port Employee Union, NiroshanGorakanage said. According to reliable sources, even MSC skipped two vessels from calling port at Colombo two weeks ago.

SLPA Chairman Dr. Prasantha Jayamanna confirmed that this did happen on 11 May exactly till noon, but assured that operations at the terminals were now smooth.  

In the meantime, a joint statement by SLPA and its stakeholders said that the Port being identified as an essential service, catering to vital transshipment, exports, imports and related logistics services is receiving and is assured of an uninterrupted supply of electricity and fuel. Shipping services are essential and contribute immensely to the
Sri Lankan economy and hence the shipping community stresses the importance of Colombo Port as a regional transshipment hub.

Inter-terminal trucking and transport for logistics services to move domestic laden and empty containers are receiving priority and connections for transhipment containers are able to make their targeted on carriers without misses. Clearance of imports and export shipments are moving at desired levels notwithstanding delays in the clearance of some import cargoes due to a shortage of foreign currency.

Trade unions acknowledge the vital importance of the sector for economic sustenance and revival and the Management of SLPA and the private terminals, CICT and SAGT are confident they would be in a position to meet the economic challenges and ensure service delivery to customers.

In terms of performance, Colombo Port continues to grow and figures for the first four months up to April 2022 reflect an overall growth in volumes of 100,356 TEU (4.3 per cent) and in transhipment 92,099 TEU (five per cent) over the same period of 2021 – recording steady progress while continuing to play a pivotal role as a regional transhipment hub with strategic intent and plans being developed to expand capacity and services to evolve to a regional shipping second to none, the joint statement said.

Further, the Management of SLPA, the terminals Colombo International Container Terminals Ltd (CICT), South Asia Gateway Terminals (Pvt) Ltd (SAGT) together with CASA (Ceylon Association of Shipping Agents) assure global shipping lines and operators of container and conventional services of operations will be carried out uninterrupted, normally and in expected levels at the Port of Colombo despite the economic and political crisis situation, the statement added. 

By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan