Sri Lanka govt snubs shipping industry on policy initiative
Mar 21, 2017 07:13 AM GMT+0530 | 1 Comment(s)
ECONOMYNEXT - Efforts by Sri Lanka’s shipping professionals to initiate discussions with the government on a policy for its ports and shipping sector have been unsuccessful despite the new regime’s professed commitment to transparency and dialogue.
The existing shipping policy was drawn up about a decade ago and has not been updated despite appeals by professional bodies keen to better exploit the island’s location close to the main East-West trade route across the Indian Ocean with a coherent, consistent policy.
A major issue facing the island’s shipping sector is that Sri Lanka does not have a national policy on port development, said Rohaan Abeywickrama, former chairman of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT).
“We don’t know the government’s thinking on tariffs at Hambantota port, for example,” he told a forum discussing the port’s future held by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and Shippers’ Academy Colombo.
The shipping industry did not know if tariffs at Hambantota, which critics have dubbed a ‘white elephant’ for not having enough business, will be lower than Colombo port’s, he said.
“Who will be the landlord in Hambantota port? Who will provide navigation services?” asked Abeywickrama. “Attempts by the CILT and the Company of Master Mariners to start a national discussion on policy did not get the support of the government,” he said.
In most European countries, there is a stated policy for the landlord, and terminals owned and operated by the private sector but regulated by the government.
“Also, Europe has safeguards for local investors and partners in port development.”
Abeywickrama said he believed these issues were being discussed in government talks to get China to invest in the loss-making, debt-ridden Hambantota port on long lease in a debt-for-equity deal.
Right now, Hambantota port has “no commercial viability,” he said. “Professionals and the business community should get the government to discuss a policy framework for the sector.” (COLOMBO, March 21, 2017)