Sri Lanka Shippers' Council meeting with the Chairman and Senior Management of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority

15th December 2020

A delegation of The Sri Lanka Shippers' Council (SLSC) comprising leading senior representatives of the constituent Trade and Product Associations of the Council, convened a meeting with the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), General Daya Ratnayake, to apprise him of the prevailing challenging and demanding ground situation and the serious implications and disruptions on the supply chains due to the effects of COVID-19 Pandemic prevailing during this period in time. , to understand how the Sri Lanka Ports Authority was planning to meet these unprecedented challenges faced by the country and to make recommendations to reduce the impact faced by the shippers whom we represent.

Our recommendation was based on the following factors. The effects of Covid-19 on supply chains across South Asia and the Asia-Pacific, is perhaps the single most salient issue affecting economies in the respective geographic areas.

Shifts to global supply chains were already in motion prior to the pandemic, due in part to the U.S.-China trade dispute but also to longstanding erosion of China's manufacturing advantages. The chaos unleashed by Covid-19 and the trade dispute accelerated what were previously three- to five-year time horizons into the much-nearer term. The severe impact it has had on Sri Lanka, which is entirely dependent on exports and imports, is no exception. On the contrary, the impact of the disruptions has had a far more serious effect on the country's economy which is predominantly exports based and is also heavily dependent on imports because of scant natural resources.

It is with these objectives, that the SLSC sought the meeting, the intention of which was twofold.

The first was to provide an upto date situation analysis based on the experiences and impact of the constituent member associations of the SLSC and the second, to obtain first hand, the measures that have been taken and that are being taken by the Ministry of Ports and Shipping and the SLPA to alleviate the disruption to port operations and restore normalcy amidst the challenges that it is faced with.

Opening the discussion, General Daya Ratnayake, Chairman SLPA, warmly welcomed the delegation.

He emphasised that the main objective of the SLPA at this critical moment, was to continue port operations without disruption. While accepting that there had been serious difficulties for importers and exporters, both operational and in other critical areas, he emphasized that the Pandemic has provided a unique opportunity to cooperate with and operate among the 3 port terminals as one team, to improve the services for and cater to the requirements of the port users. He added that the situation has greatly improved since several immediate measures were implemented.

The Chairman of the SLSC, Suren Abeysekera, expressed his appreciation to the Chairman SLPA, for hosting the discussion. Making a brief introduction of the SLSC, Mr. Abeysekera informed the SLPA Chairman that the SLSC was established in 1966 to protect the interests of shippers. It was the first National Shippers' Council to be set up in Asia and was formed on a request made in 1965 by the local committee of the Ceylon Continental Conference and a subsequent request made by the Director of Commerce to The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. He stated that the SLSC is the apex body that represents the interests of shippers. Members of the delegation introduced themselves and the sectors that they represented.

The Chairman, SLSC, whilst thanking the Chairman SLPA and his senior management for measures taken by SLPA to operationalize the East Container Terminal (ECT), to assist exchanging seafarers with the help of the Sri Lanka Navy, and to improve the operations amidst challengers to the port.

The Chairman SLSC next outlined the meeting objectives, which in the first instance was intended to strengthen relations between the SLPA and the Council. To pave the way for continuous engagement and discussions to address existing and future issues for the betterment of all stakeholders. Then the SLSC Chairman outlined in detail, the points of discussions:

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