“Private, foreign participation must for port development” | Daily News
To thwart competition from leased H’tota harbour

“Private, foreign participation must for port development”

Panellists: State Minister, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa,  Rohan Masakorala and  Asanga Abeyagoonasekera and moderators at Advocata Institute hosted event.
Panellists: State Minister, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa, Rohan Masakorala and Asanga Abeyagoonasekera and moderators at Advocata Institute hosted event.

Hambantota Port will pose the biggest competition to the Colombo Port and Sri Lanka will have to involve private and foreign terminal operators for Port related development State Minister of Urban Development, Coast Conservation, Waste Disposal and Community Cleanliness, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa said.

He was speaking at an Advocata hosted panel discussion on: “The Future of Ports Development in Sri Lanka ‘’ at BMICH last Friday.

He said that the earlier Rajapaksa government had two master plans when they planned Hambantota Port, where Colombo was to focus as a trading Port (transshipment and containerized cargo) and Hambantota for export and re-export as an industrial city. “But now Hambantota Port will be doing both these areas and they are planning for containerization in a few years.”

There is no space in Colombo Port to expand due to land shortage while in Hambantota over 3,000 hectares were allocated for an industrial estate to manufacture and re-export.

He said that the total cost to build Hambantota Port was USD 1,750 million (with interest) and Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) had already paid USD 500 and the balance could have been settled in five years. “With leasing the terminals and other operations the balance could have been settled and profits could have come to Sri Lanka. Hence it was a very bad move to have leased this for 99 years to China.”

Today cargo’/ transshipment related activities are global businesses and any single country, as a single player, without global network, connections will fail. For security and other logistic reasons Port management must be kept with the government.”

He also said that most people have mixed up port and terminals thinking it’s one. Port is similar to shopping malls and terminals are similar to shops and restaurants that are operated by several companies. The mall owner does not have experience and international contacts to do business hence he leases out the mall.

“Sri Lankans too need a mindset change and people must understand that attracting FDI is the key for international debt servicing. Brining in international investors on favorable terms is not a crime and is not selling the country and these two areas should not be mixed up.”

They should be offered investors competitive terms as they can go to so many other countries. India too is privatizing airports and ports and out of its 13 Ports have leased out 12 to private parties.

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SL port development should move to ‘Landlord Port Model’

It was the previous government that agreed to go ahead with approving the Indian bid for the ECT and former President Maithripala Sirisena also confirmed to Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on this agreement, shipping industry expert and Chief Executive Officer, Shippers Academy, Colombo Rohan Masakorala said.

Sri Lanka port development should move to a global acclaimed ‘Landlord Model Port System’ where the government will be the caretaker or will be singled out from the world.

Globally around 80% of cargo businesses are handled by global private companies while governments directly handle only around 20% business this number too is reducing fast.

He also appealed to the government to have long term policies as other countries like Singapore are passing Sri Lanka. Since 1994 to date there are six different policy statements on port development which is a mockery, he said. “ It’s because Sri Lanka did not have clear policies that Shalala Port in Dubai was created as they saw opportunities and invested in time,” Masakorala

The former government should have had better discussions with people and think tanks and studied geo politics before giving Hambantota Port to China for 99 years, said Founding Director General Institute for National Security Studies, Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.

The previous government signed the agreement first and then asked for choices and this was not even discussed in parliament. This Hambantota ‘deal’ has left huge geo political issues for the future generations.” (SS)