Sri Lanka shipping industry mystified over unopened Hambantota port proposals   News
Posted on March 21st, 2017

Dr Sarath Obeysekera  Shipyard Operator

My colleague Rohan Abeywickrama made above statement during his address in the Shippers Forum

I wrote about attitude of SLPA which always ran  by people who had vested interest have failed to mobilze local companies to resurrect the Hambantota Port and make it a profitable venture

Quote

හම්බන්තොට වරාය චීනයට පැවරීමේදී වරාය අධිකාරිය නොසලකා හැරලා News Item …….Opinion not to be ignored

SLPA has been ignored when Hambantota was entrusted (to Chinese)………….

No wonder………. Sri Lanka Ports Authority have always been of Non Progressive thinking .In the past Serendib Flower Mill, Mahaweli Cement Bagging Factory, and later Tokyo  Cement , Prima Flower Storage SGT container Terminal, CICT ,Colombo Dockyard are all private investments in the Colombo Harbour. SLPA never wanted to allocate because they were not interested to develop the Harbour.When SAGT was promoted officials as well as unions were dead against .Work force is one of the most inefficient and most of the are involved in various corruptive practice, hence they do not like anyone else coming in .

Land in the Port were allocated to private investors were done by the Government intervention .Ministers in charge of Ports always had the problem with SLPA to agree to lease lands to these private investments. SLPA hierarchy and the Bureaucratic Officials have most of the time have  been of Non Progressive thinking .Managing Director of SLPA is the Chief Executive Officer according their act.  Lately Chairmen of SLPA have been dictating terms to officials. If the Chairman is appointed by the President, he tends to take rein   into his hands and Managing Directors loses control.

Minister of Ports is the most sought after Ministries among supporting politicians to any President .Because it is one of the most lucrative Ministries which governs PORTS.MAHAPOLA .SECRETARIAT OF MERCHANT SHIPPING ETC. They even hold some clout on Ocean outside harbour and even GalleFace.

Another example is Galle Harbour which   was  to be developed for various reasons .Government is  quite willing to develop the  harbour to attract Yachts and Leisure Crafts .Government proposed to have a Yacht Repair Yard to attract more and more yachts and gradually develop the harbour for tourism .They prepared a Master Plan which is quite clear about this .Japanese funds were sourced to build an out harbour breakwater to expand water basin .Then Politicians interfere and change the plans ,They do not want Jaica of Japan  to provide funds ,They prefer Indians to come and put up a Marina .Officials claim that plan to remove Navy and Fishery Harbour etc from the harbour is short sighted .If the break water is built It will boost Galle development

This is the exact situation with Hambantota, SLPA wants to keep all the harbours under their control because they want to be almighty. If government wants to develop the country, National Economic Policy should be established and all key Ministries should come under a forward thinking authoritarian President or a Prime Minister.

I am not sure whether 1500 acres should be given to Chinese, but giving Hambantota Port to be managed   by a private company is a worthwhile move if the deal is straight forward.

Government should appoint a private sector Ex CEO to be the government representative to the Board who should have vetoing powers for certain selected decisions taken by Chinese .Chinese should not use the port for Military purposes .Port rates to be charged from shipping companies in Hambantota to be in in par with Colombo and Galle to avoid undercutting.

Other condition government should impose is as follows .In the event Chinese Company intends to sub-let part of the harbour ,Government should approve the same with conditions that shares should be allocated to the State without diluting the shares in Hambantota  Harbour .

Third condition should be that any development in outer harbour Ocean of Hambantota should not be included in the main agreement except the harbour channel .In the event ant other Chinese company like Cosco or any other investor comes in to develop a Shipyard outside harbour ,state should have a different agreement .

Any future Bunkering Operation to be handed over to another subcontractor should also be reviewed and agreed so that state can attract more revenue.

Dr Sarath Obeysekera

Shipyard Operator

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