Shiippers council logo

Back to News

18th August 2018

Speech by the Incoming Chairman of Sri Lanka Shippers Council - Mr. Suren Abeysekera

Mr. Suren Abeysekera Our Chief Guest, Mr. Mangala P. B. Yapa, Chairman, The Board of Investment of Sri Lanka, distinguished members of various Government departments, special invitees, past Chairmen, executive committee and members of the council, associates of the press, well wishes, ladies and gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure to stand in front of you to address this gathering as the newly elected 19th Chairman of the Sri Lanka Shippers' Council, a prestigious position once held by many distinguished personnel connected to international trade, shipping and logistics in Sri Lanka.

As you know by now, the Sri Lanka Shippers' Council has a 50 + years rich history. Enriched by contributions made by various prominent members of our society, it remains as the apex body which represents the interest of shippers in the Island. It was also the first National Shippers' Council to be set up in Asia now having 14 product member associations and over 50 individual members representing almost all industries engaged in international trade making it one of the most vibrant councils in Sri Lanka. In this back drop, let me take this opportunity at the outset to thank the executive committee and membership of the council for placing their trust and confidence in me and the 2 vice chairmen elect Russel and Imalka to carry on the baton for the ensuing year at the AGM just concluded. We are well aware that this responsibility is a transitional one that we need to enhance and handover to a successor thus a temporary endeavor.

Ladies and Gentlemen let me begin my few remarks this evening in debt to the great writer and social critic Charles Dickens who once wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness”. I'm sure these thoughts echo in our minds specially taking into context our country's current state of affairs. While we boast record export revenues in 2018 with its predominant export sector; apparels reaching the staggering US$ 5 Bn mark, a very unfortunate incident in April this year almost steered a U-turn in the country's economy breaking the momentum it enjoyed for the past several months. The continuing political instability in the country not only distracts foreign direct investment opportunities but makes it difficult for the already invested businesses to function. It is in such a state that we take over to steer this enormous organization to help transform the future by enabling importers and exporters to flourish by supporting them to overcome challenges and enabling fair-trade.

Here, I must place in record with great appreciation and admiration the splendid job performed by our outgoing chairman Mr. Chrisso De Mel who in some instances single handedly managed many tasks representing the council in myriad of committees and audiences portraying Sri Lanka Shippers' Council as a strong advocate of policy and industry best practices. It will no doubt be big shoes to fill but am confident to carry out the legacy he leaves behind. We wish him the very best as he takes over the Exporters' Association of Sri Lanka as its Chairman in a few days.

In fact, earlier last week we were given good counsel by our chief guest Mr. Mangala Yapa himself when we called on him, about taking over responsibilities and understanding others' needs. He illustrated to us that to get into someone else's shoes, first you need to be mindful to remove your own. Thank you, sir for this advice and moreover accepting our invitation and being here with us tonight.

Thinking about the work ahead, I accept that there are 3 cardinal challenges the council is currently faced with that the dynamic team in office need to manage for the betterment of the Council.

Firstly, collaboration between relevant stake holders involved in the trade. Unfortunately, we live in a society that projects the work done by service agencies, government departments and other trade related parties as favors done to the EXIM industry. Where, in essence, they are performing a facilitation role enabling industry engines to work in sync and improve trade which is beneficial to country's economy. Most departments tend to work in silos upholding age-old rules, regulations and practices that most times deter new thinking and moving forward to compete with other economies around us. The fading relationships between most servicing partners/ agencies and trade today together with the erosion of public private dialog has resulted in many a dispute some totally alien to the need of the trade. We urge relevant stake holders and government departments to join hands with us to leverage Council's strength to reach a cross section of the industry when taking policy decision, rate revisions and changes to how this industry functions.

Secondly, combating policy inconsistencies and the growing cancer of industry stakeholders using national level opportunities and formulation of policies for individual gain supporting specific trades and/or organizations without putting country first. It is no secret that some quarters try to hide behind new policy drafts to safeguard personal gains. As a council, we are committed to uphold good governance and a country first attitude. We will continue to strive to bring about fair-trade and competition where market forces would decide ultimate winners.

Another need of the hour is to strictly enforce the mandate of the council to safe guard importers and exporters from unethical and unlawful trade practices. As our vibrant past Chairman and the current Chairman of GSF Mr. Sean Van Dort would say, defend the helpless shipper from unscrupulous parties with vested interests waiting to grab any opportunity to debit unlawful surcharges. The council will continue to monitor, control and expose such unlawful practices and parties for responsible government agents to take necessary action. But make no mistake, we salute and always support those who conduct their affairs justly and lawfully.

While we understand that this is not an easy road to tread, call upon the executive committee, all members, distinguish past chairmen and the trade at large to support us in these endeavors as we step into the next chapter of the Council. We will continue to partner with the Global Shippers' Forum in these ventures particularly to address some of these necessities internationally.

I take this opportunity once again to thank our Chief guest, our sponsors, Hayley's Advantise, Expo freight limited, Kerry Logistics, Scanwell Logistics and all other sponsors and those who provided e-banners to make this event a success. A special word of thanks to our secretariat, Manori, Lakmani, Ushani from the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce for their untiring efforts not forgetting associates of the press covering today's event. Personally, permit me to pay tribute to few people who enabled me to reach this position. Mr. Hanif Yusoof who introduced me to the trade stalwarts, Mr. Rohan Masakorala who invited me to be a part of JAAF, Mr. Sean Van Dort who recognized me to join the Sri Lanka Shippers' Council, Mr. Chrisso De Mel for all his mentoring and my colleagues at Mast Industries (Far East) Limited without whom I would not be standing in front of this august assembly today.

Thank you all for your participation at our AGM post business session and hope you will have a good evening. God Bless!

Back to News

Solution by Nidro IT Solutions All rights Reserved. Sri Lanka Shippers Council