Colombo port handles record-breaking 7mn TEUs in 2018

The Port of Colombo yesterday handled the seven millionth twenty-foot equivalent container unit (TEU) for 2018, which is a first in the port’s history.
Ports, Shipping and Southern Development Minister Sagala Ratnayake yesterday signalled handling of the seven millionth TEU brought to the Jaya Container Terminal (JCT) by MV. CPO Hamburg of the MSC Line.

Speaking at the occasion Ports, Shipping and Southern Development Ministry Secretary and the Chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA)  Dr. Parakrama Dissanayake highlighted that Colombo port’s growth has had accelerated significantly during past few years as the time taken to handle extra one million TEUs has narrowed down to one year from nine years in 2004.

“The port of Colombo having handled the one million TEUs in 1995, took nine years to handle two million TEUs in 2004. Having handled four million TEUs in 2010, it took five years to handle five million TEUs in 2015. 

In the year 2017, the port handled six million TEUs and it took two years to handle that extra million. But what is unique is that this year, the Port of Colombo handled seven million TEUs and that one million took only one year,” he elaborated. 

The Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) managed by China Merchant Ports contributed to 38 percent of the Port’s volumes, by handling 2.65 million TEUs in 2018. 

The SLPA-owned the Jaya Container Terminal (JCT) handled 2.3 million TEUs in 2018 while the South Asia Gateway Terminal’s (SAGT) achieved of 2 million TEUs.

The Port of Colombo was ranked the top container port in terms of growth for the first time during the first half of 2018, and the port was also ranked among the top 30 container ports in the same period.

Meanwhile, Dr. Dissanayake revealed that the transshipment volumes of the Port of Colombo grew by 19.3 percent year-on-year (YoY) up to November 2018.

Ratnayake who assumed duties as the Ports, Shipping and Southern Development Minister last week, asserted that a level-playing field, which enables healthy competition, is essential to achieve Sri Lanka’s hub aspirations. 

He emphasised that the Ministry is committed to create a level-playing field for all industry players. 

“Everybody should have a level-playing field. It’s a tough one to be achieved, but we are working on that,” he said.

When queried on the implementation of the proposed shipping industry liberalisation by lifting the 40 percent foreign ownership restriction on shipping agencies, the minister pointed out that the responsibility of implementing that policy lies with the Finance and Mass Media Ministry. 

Ratnayake noted that this year would be a challenging year in terms of policy implementation, as the country will enter into an election cycle this year. 

“There are quite a few things that will be played in this year—from elections to various other things. Hence, we need to manage all in one basket,” he said.

In addition, Ratnayake announced that his ministry will start to work on an inclusive marketing policy for Sri Lanka’s entire shipping industry in the next couple of months.

The three terminal operators at the Port of Colombo—JCT, SAGT and CICT— early this year, entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collectively promote the Port of Colombo. 

In moving forward, Dr. Dissanayake identified that the key challenge for Sri Lanka’s shipping industry is concerning the expansion of the capacity in Colombo port, which requires urgent attention.  

“The first thing I see is that the need to increase capacity, not today, not tomorrow, but right now,” he stressed. 

He also outlined that Sri Lanka needs to understand and act in line with the changes taking place between ports competing with the Port of Colombo as well as changes taking place within shipping lines and the shipping industry.