The 52nd Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka Shippers' Council - Chairman's Speech
29th June 2022
Distinguished Past Chairmen of the Council, Executive Members of the Council, Honorary Member, Members of the Council, Ladies, and Gentleman.
At the outset, let me thank the executive committee of the Sri Lanka Shippers' Council for placing their trust and confidence both in me and my vice chairmen Frink and newly appointed vice chairman Sahad to carry on the activities of the council through for yet another year.
The Sri Lanka Shippers' Council has a rich history of being in the forefront representing the interests of shippers in the Island for over five decades. Presently it has 16 product member associations and over 50 individual members representing almost all industries engaged in international trade making it one of the most prestigious councils in the Country. Taking into consideration the economic and other challenges faced by the country after much deliberation it was decided to conduct this year's AGM virtually.
In the last two years, we experienced the effects of the deadly Covid 19 pandemic with the country being shut down for periods of time to curtail the spread of the Covid 19 pandemic. This resulting in supply chain bottlenecks, exorbitant freight rates, delayed transit times, and congestion at hub ports making it a nightmare for those in the shipping industry. Today our country is facing a severe economic crisis due to depleting foreign exchange reserves resulting in the country being unable to pay for fuel, medicines, fertilizer, and gas imports resulting in social unrest. This coupled with political instability has brought the country to its knees which has never been experienced before since we gained independence in 1948.
The Council at various forums has highlighted the foreign exchange crisis long before what we are experiencing today and requested the government to take corrective action as a result of inaction, coupled with bad policy decisions the country is facing the worst economic crisis ever. This crisis has affected every stratum of our population. For industries to overcome these challenges the most valuable asset their employees should be relieved of their numerous burdens in order for them to concentrate on their work and make their industries withstand these challenging times. We call on all politicians to unite and create political stability in the country, which will be viewed favorably by donor countries and agencies in obtaining bridging finance until a viable IMF program is in operation. This will help to elevate the suffering of the masses and create a conducive environment where industries will not relocate to other countries and buyers will not move to other suppliers. This political stability in the country should be considered as a priority and accomplished without any delay to sustain the many investments already operating in the country.
The activities of the Council have been focused on issues faced by shippers on shipping and their operational activities. The Council has always performed a lead role in resolving problems and serving as the focal point where various shipping, port, Airport & other authorities' related matters are brought up and discussed. In addition, the Council largely contributes to advising the governmental authorities on matters relating to ports and shipping whenever its advice is sought after.
COVID 19 pandemic and the economic impact has caused consequent to the government regulations and restrictions that came about had a great impact on businesses. But under these trying circumstances, the Sri Lanka Shippers' Council pursued many issues while curfew and lockdowns were in force.
In addition, during this period, there were many new challenges faced by the shipping community due to political and economic uncertainty prevailing in the country. For example, forex issues, shortage of fuel, high freight rates, regular power cuts, shortage of raw materials for exports, and ever-increasing transport costs. Under these circumstances, we need to navigate carefully with prudent planning and shedding on our excesses to overcome these critical times.
The Council had several dialogues with the Sri Lanka Customs during this period and the concerns of the Importers and Exporters with regard to various policy matters and operational issues were brought to the attention of the Director-General of Customs and received positive responses to solve operational issues during this period.
The Council serves on the expert panel on the Modernization of Sri Lanka Customs to modernize its activities to be more efficient.
In line with the implementation of Digital Signature, Sri Lanka Shippers' Council organized a virtual awareness session to educate the trade on this facility and clear any doubts about the process. The event was held virtually. Resource panel from Sri Lanka Customs and Lanka Clear participated. The response received from the trade for this seminar was overwhelming with approximately over 2,500 participants joined on YouTube Live.
The Council had several discussions with the Director-General of Merchant Shipping and other relevant stakeholders to maintain the maximum sealing for the Delivery Order (DO) fee on Imports and request the Director-General of Merchant Shipping to implement the guideline No. 05 which was established in November 2021.
The Sri Lanka Shippers' Council submitted to the media several press releases and attended some press conferences at regular intervals during the year highlighting the issues faced by the importers and exporters of the country to pressurize the government to take action to resolve the issues expressed. I thank the media for giving the Council-wide visibility for these events as a degree of success was achieved through these endeavors.
This year too, Sri Lanka Shippers' Council partnered with CINEC Maritime Campus to offer scholarships and encourage professionalism in the industry. I would like to thank professor Lalith Edirisinghe who has facilitated these scholarships for many years.
The Sri Lanka Shippers' Council came forth with project Book Donation where the mission was to join hands with CINEC to distribute the first Logistics Sinhala textbook titled "Logistics Sinhalen" to the rural schools in Sri Lanka.
The event was successfully held on the 28th of February 2022 at the Governor's Secretariat, Anuradhapura. The Governor of the North Central Province Mr. Maheepala Herath graced the occasion as the Chief Guest. I would like to thank all those who joined the Council to make this donation possible.
I would also like to acknowledge all our corporate sponsors for the confidence placed in the council and granting the following sponsorships: -
Thank you all and God bless you!
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