Arjuna Ranatunga, Minister of Ports and Shipping along with Rohan Masakorala, CEO, Shippers Academy Colombo (R) launching the website for the Colombo International Maritime Conference
There are many who are willing to invest in Hambantota. It had happened in the past but unfortunately they have had bad experiences. It’s not happening any more and now we are getting a lot of investors not only for Hambantota but also for Colombo, said Arjuna Ranatunga, Minister of Ports and Shipping in Colombo.
Addressing the media briefing on June 16 on the Colombo International Maritime Conference to be held from June 24 to 26, the minister said that the objective is to get the industry into the right track and develop Hambantota Port as well. Colombo is performing pretty well, but unfortunately, the money we earn from Colombo, we have to pump it into Hambantota, he said.
Commenting on the industry, he said that when it comes to maritime, everything happens in Colombo. So it has been decided to educate the younger generation in the country. On a remark by Rohaan Masakorala, CEO of the Shippers Academy Colombo, the minister said that whatever happened in the past, the country had to learn from the lessons it went through and get it right. Shipping and maritime sector is a huge issue the country has to face, he added.
The Colombo International Maritime Conference will be an eye opener for investors as well as other countries to learn about Sri Lanka’s maritime industry, said Minister Arjuna Rantunga, a veteran in cricket, noted that they had started with a sports policy but it never materialised.
“It’s the shipping experts that should discuss the formation of the Maritime Policy and we are there to support them. Unfortunately, what had happened in the past is that people who were not involved in the industry were the ones who were trying to run the organisation. That’s where we went wrong. What we are doing now is to get ideas from the industry experts and bring about a policy. We are there to support them and not to make decisions. When the policies are there, it is very easy for any country to proceed. If you take India, they have policies for everything, but take us, we don’t have a single. This is where our downfall comes most of the time. Till I’m here, I think I’ll be the first person to get a policy into the cabinet,” said Minister Ranatunga.
Rohan Masakorala, CEO of the Shippers Academy Colombo said that the event has been announced by the IMO and observed by the United Nations.
“As you are well aware, Sri Lanka has the biggest deep draft ports in South Asia – Colombo and Hambantota – and steps are being taken to increase the frequencies so that the country’s exporters, importers, and port operators will benefit. Also of importance is the tourism sector involving cruise liners. We also have three new maritime terminals in the South Port constructed recently,” he said.
Sri Lanka is a major maritime operator but many outsiders are still not aware of Sri Lanka’s capabilities. As such, it’s time for us to talk to the world and one of the objectives of this conference is to promote Sri Lanka, he said.
According to Rohan, 2015 is a unique year, because internationally millennium development goals were announced in the year 2000. “And this year in September, our President will also attend the New York Session. The world will move into sustainable development goals. And maritime being one of the key industries moving the world trade – 90 per cent of the world trade is moved with sea borne cargo – sustainable development is a key milestone that we too will have move towards in the coming decade. It’s on this basis it’s very important that we also take the responsibility as emerging maritime nation,” noted Masakorala.
“We do have some objectives such as showcasing Sri Lanka’s maritime infrastructure to the world, send a message that Sri Lanka is ready, increase main line and feeder shipping to Sri Lanka, increase the business of transhipment, increase education, skills and awareness among our younger generation and the industry, the Indian Sub Continent to expand trade and create wealth to the region’s people as we are known as a poorer region in the world, promote Sri Lanka as a logistics hub, etc.
“The objective of the conference is to tell the world our story and to do that we have the support of the IMO, where the IMO Secretary General has issued a six-page statement for this conference and they have given Sri Lanka the right to use the UN Logo and Maritime Education and Training is the theme for this year,” he said and added that endorsements have been received from all government institutions related to the industry. SriLankan Airlines has joined to bring speakers and delegates from various countries. Organisations, both local and international are supporting the event.
“What we are trying to tell the world is that that there will be a big segment covering the Indian Sub Continent, Maritime Tourism, Bunker Industry, Maritime Security and Piracy in the region, etc. As such a whole gamut of events will take place and the inauguration of the event will take place on 24th evening. Also a stamp will also be issued on that day,” said Masakorala.
“It’s all about our country and we should not be second to anybody else. We talk about Singapore, Fine! Let’s learn from Singapore. There are people in this country who have more than 30 years experience in ports and shipping, who can put our country back in the world map, especially with a minister who had already done it in another form. Under his leadership, we can put our infrastructure to real use; make use of ports that have already been built; we may have our views, but Hambantota Port is already there, we have to develop it and make use of it. This is an opportunity where we can get investors to look at Sri Lanka,” said Masakorala, CEO of the Shippers’ Academy, Colombo.
Just like in the Apparel Industry, when the world sees what our Logistics and Maritime companies can do, I’m confident that we can succeed in taking greater impact on the GDP from this industry, he said.
Making a request from the Ports and Shipping Minister Arjuna Ranatunga, he said there should be a national shipping policy soon. It has been discussed in numerous forums but had never become a reality. “Now that all the reforms and good pieces of legislation are coming in, we would like to have a national policy so that whatever changes that may occur, governments, ministers, officials, etc., we should not have a changing scenario in the shipping and maritime sector,” said Masakorala.
(SL - 21062015)