SLFFA holds 42nd Annual General Meeting

SLFFA holds 42nd Annual General Meeting

Seated from left: Secretary General Rohan Induruwa, Vice Chairman Andre Fernando, Chairman Channa Gunawardena, Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Chairman Major General (Rtd.) G.A. Chandrasiri, Immediate Past Chairman Dinesh Sri Chandrasekara, Sri Lanka Export Development Board Chairman/Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kingsley Bernard, Treasurer Shavindra Dias, and Manager Dishni Perera 

Standing from left: Debbie Dissanayake (Expolanka Freight, Navin Perera (GAC Logistic), M.F. Ibrahim (Famous Pacific Shipping Lanka), Suharshini Welegama (Freight Links International), Suminda Hettiarachchi (DHL Global Forwarding Lanka), Sujan Malawana (Speedmark Transportation Lanka), Nishan Jayawardena (Aitken Spence Cargo), Diruni Chanmugam (Shermans Logistics, Priyan Seilman (Scanwell Logistics), Kolitha Wickramasinghe (Salota International) 

The Sri Lanka Logistics and Freight Forwarders’ Association (SLFFA) held its 42nd Annual General Meeting on 15 September at the Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo. 

The Chief Guest for the occasion was Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Ltd. Chairman Major General (Rtd.) G.A. Chandrasiri, and the Guest of Honour Sri Lanka Export Development Board Chairman/Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kingsley Bernard.

Expelogix Ltd. Director/CEO Channa Gunawardena was duly appointed as the incoming Chairman for the period 2023/2024 whilst MAC Supply Chain Solutions Ltd. Managing Director Andre Fernando, and Foreway Logistics Ltd. Managing Director Shavindra Dias, were elected as Vice Chairman and Treasurer respectively. 

The Executive Committee elected for the period 2023/2024 comprises of Aitken Spence Cargo Ltd., DHL Global Forwarding Lanka Ltd., Expolanka Freight Ltd., Famous Pacific Shipping Lanka Ltd., Freight Links International Ltd., GAC Logistics Ltd., Salota International Ltd., Scanwell Logistics Ltd., Shermans Logistics Ltd. and Speedmark Transportation Lanka Ltd. 

Chief Guest Major General (Rtd.) G.A. Chandrasiri in his address stated, “Sri Lanka as a country, has gone through the worst economic downturn in her known history, shadowed by the dark clouds of uncertainty which prevailed, affecting the socio-economic fibre of our motherland. 

“SLFFA had been known among the fraternity as a great pillar of strength, standing through tough times, not only for its members, but inevitably benefiting the local producers and the business community as well, in seeing the rays of hope. Whether it be in Sea Freight or Air Freight, your commitment, flexibility and strength, no doubt would have added and will add value for the economic growth of the country, in future as well. 

“On our part, being the Airport operator of Sri Lanka and an integrated part of its economic back bone, Airport and Aviation Services (SL) Ltd., had walked that extra mile, with a sense of hope during those challenging times. It has not been an easy task to ensure that the Airport stands strong in adversity, in making a safe passage for Air Cargo as well as Air passengers, amidst devastating impact on our revenue sources. 

“It’s a sincere pride I take, being able to inculcate a sense of right direction at AASL and give leadership as the Chairman of AASL, when it matters most, during those tough times. 

As professionals in our respective industries, be it Freight or Aviation, we must work together and pursue ahead fearlessly, in a positive mindset of the future. Being aware of Airport economics, that more Passenger Airline Flight frequencies to Airport brings with it more opportunities for belly Cargo segment as well, we had been successful in revitalising movements of Aeroflot, Salam Air, China Southern, Spice Jet and Alliance Air as well into our Airports. We believe the freight industry would also reap the benefits, hand in hand. 

“Yet I firmly believe, Sri Lanka Logistics and Freight Forwarding Association (SLFFA) has resolved to face it and drive the Air cargo industry forward. We, at Airport and Aviation services (SL) Ltd. are glad to be your partners in progress.”

The Guest of Honour, Dr. Kingsley Bernard during his address, emphasised the following; 

“I’m truly honoured to stand at the Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka Freight Forwarders’ Association, a gathering that represents the very heart of our nation’s logistics industry. 

“The logistics and freight forwarding industry is the backbone of global trade. As we navigate through intricate supply chains, customs regulations, and international borders, you stand as the bridge between shippers and the world, ensuring that goods reach their destinations seamlessly, efficiently, and safely.

“Sri Lanka’s significance as a trading nation cannot be understated. Our strategic location has historically positioned us as a vital node in international trade routes. Today, we continue to leverage this location advantage, facilitated by our world-class ports, and its processes, and the expertise of our freight industry.

“Sri Lanka has improved its position to 73 out of 139 countries in the latest Global Logistics Performance Index (LPI) compiled by the World Bank in 2023, up from 92nd place in the previous assessment made in 2018. But still, we need to improve the digitisation processes and minimise the adverse effect on the policy and procedures related to efficient logistics operations. 

“As we all know, the logistics sector contributes around 2.5% of the national GDP amounting closer to $ 2 billion, and providing full-time direct employment to over 40,000+people.

“The Freight Forwarders’ Association serves as a platform for all to come together, share insights, and collectively address challenges. 

“This is a moment for us to reflect on our achievements, address challenges, and collectively pave the way for a dynamic future in the logistics industry in Sri Lanka.

“In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, the logistics industry of Sri Lanka is not just about moving goods from one place to another; it’s about moving our nation forward. Let us continue to work hand in hand, breaking barriers, and setting new benchmarks of excellence. Together, we have the power to shape the future of logistics in our nation and on the global stage.”

The Chairman in his speech congratulated the outgoing Chairman, Dinesh Sri Chandrasekara and the Executive Committee on completion of an excellent tenure marked with many accomplishments. 

Highlights of his address is as follows; “Resonating the resilience nature of Sri Lankans, we the logisticians too are slowly but surely recovering from the economic crisis and its negative impact on our industry. Whilst acknowledging the fact that we are not ‘out of the woods yet’, I believe there is no better time to re-energise some of the very important logistics industry related initiatives we lobbied for prior to the onset of the pandemic. These will be SLFFA’s immediate focus and I earnestly look forward to the support of all progressive minded stakeholders in our quest.

“Prior to the onset of the pandemic, there were many dialogues aimed towards accelerated structural reforms of the logistics industry which will help the country achieve its aspiration of becoming the logistics hub in the South Asia region. SLFFA has actively taken part in many if not all of those initiatives and I believe we must now revisit those and expedite the process of implementation. We firmly believe in collaboration with other stakeholders of the industry in doing so. This is an immediate and high priority for us.” 

Addressing Dr. Bernard, Chairman stated, “The Logistics strategy as part of NES is one such initiative which highlighted the need for a cohesive regulatory framework to fully optimise the potential of the logistics industry in the country. Due to various reasons, this strategy was restricted to a mere document of 60 plus pages. SLFFA will play an active role in pursuing necessary factions to ensure this document is given due focus at all related discussions. We look forward to the support of other trade associations in this endeavour. Implementing this all-important strategy is heavily dependent on the support it requires from the Ministries and State institutes identified as leading and supporting implementing partners. We look forward to the support and leadership of EDB in this regard. 

“Sri Lanka’s strategic location and our ability to be the logistics Hub for the South Asian region is a topic spoken repeatedly over many years. SLFFA has been involved in many a dialogue and have always emphasised the importance of having the required infrastructure, both physical and systems in achieving the Hub status. We acknowledge progress even though it’s limited, over the years and emphasise the importance of accelerating these. 

“On the ocean freight side, we strongly feel the necessity to study the tariffs involved in Multi Country Consolidation which is an integral part of a location or a Port achieving a Hub status. A Tariff needs to meet its primary objective of generating revenue but in the context of Multi-Country Consolidation, it must not be a deterrent in attracting new players to the business. SLFFA intends to engage The Sri Lanka Ports Authority in a constructive dialog and we look forward to the support of other associations with similar interests. 

“Often when we speak of the Hub concept, it’s more to do with Ocean related services whereas seldom we speak of the potential of our airports. Even though we are far from Dubai, Singapore or Hong Kong due to less air freight capacity, one cannot write off the geographical advantage we possess. In order to fully harness this potential, SLFFA recognised the importance of having the right infrastructure in place at Colombo Airport and we formulated a comprehensive document a few years back which we presented to AASL. This document is a result of a detailed study carried out by subject experts of our association and was handed over at the time when planning of the Airport expansion project. Sir, we are confident that this proposal will be given due attention when the project restarts again, hopefully in coming months. This is a high priority for us and we would be more than happy to take part in discussions on this subject. 

“Another priority area is digital transformation and our commitment towards various initiatives. We will continue to actively take part in these constructive dialogues and would like to highlight the importance of a unified approach by all relevant lead institutes, ensuring that the implementation process is not delayed further. SLFFA is the leading industry body who’s involved in both Ocean and Air freight and I’m sure our input will be vital in this area. 

“We will continue to play a pivotal role in educating our next generation of logisticians through our training academy AITT and our objective in coming years to increase the awareness of the value of the courses conducted by AITT amongst our fraternity and thereby ensuring we have a larger talent pool. 

“AITT offers three highly effective and practical courses to three different segments. UNESCAP endorsed a foundation course for the students and new comers, The DGMS approved certification course for the executives who are already employed and finally the FIATA international Diploma which is equal to a Bachelor’s Degree. Importantly, we now conduct the Dangerous Goods Regulations Training program also under AITT. So now you don’t have to look anywhere else to train your staff. 

“As we all know, the importance of the logistician came to the fore during the pandemic. When everyone opted to hide in safety, it’s us who came to the front to set things in motion. We at SLFFA realised the importance of recognising the efforts of these ‘brave individuals’ who are employed across different fields including Freight forwarding. Henceforth, the birth of the National Logistics Awards (NLA) which was an idea of our past Chairman Roshan Silva and our newly elected Treasure Shavindra Dias. The first NLA was a resounding success and we plan to hold the next awards ceremony during the course of 2024. This time around we are intending to introduce additional categories with the aim of increasing participation.” 

Amongst the guests were officials from related Government agencies, several industry bodies/associations, past chairmen of the association and delegates of member companies.

(Source: Daily Mirror)