A 30-year success story of Sri Lanka Ports Authority
Today (August 1) marks Sri Lanka Ports Authority's (SLPA) 30th year.
As a member of the pioneer team it is with a deep sense of satisfaction
that I trace the chequered history of this unique organization.
Birth of the SLPA
Creation of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority on August 1, 1979 was the
brainchild of the late Lalith Athulathmudali, Trade and Shipping
Minister. It was a landmark move in the annals of the ports of Sri
Lanka. This brought about the merger of three separate entities i.e.
Colombo Port Commission, Port (Cargo) Corporation and Port Tally and
Protective Services Corporation into a single authority. This gave
reality to the concept of a unified and autonomous body under a single
line of command to better co-ordination and direct port activities and
their future development eliminating, duplication, overlapping of
activities, lack of co-ordination and made it possible for overall
planning for development and efficient management of the ports. The
complex task of integration was effected smoothly with the co-operation
of 23,000 employees in 63 trades in three organizations.
Inauguration - Queen Elizabeth Container Terminal August 1, 1980
Cargo being unloaded at the Colombo Port. File photo
In the mid 60s, the then Colombo Port Commission planed the
establishment of a bulk handling berth by way of extension of the Queen
Elizabeth Quay. But as the container mode was catching on at the time
and trend gathering momentum, the Port Commission decided to use it for
container handling. Due to financial constraints the proposed project
could not get off the ground. However, the newly created Ports Authority
gave priority to this project. This container berth was designed and
constructed by our engineering and technical staff at a cost of Rs. 100
million was ceremonially commissioned on the occasion of the first
anniversary of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority on August 1, 1980. It is
noteworthy that Port of Colombo was the first Port in South Asia to
install gantry cranes with SLPA's own funds. In 1989, another gantry
crane was installed provided an annual handling capacity of 250,000 TEUS.
The facilities provided in Colombo on par with container ports in any
developed country has contributed to its becoming a leading port for
transshipment in the region serving all major lines traversing the
shipping routes between the East and West. Improvement in efficiency and
infrastructure reflected in Jaye Container Terminal JCT's performance in
2003 enhanced the capacity of the JCT to approximately 1.85 million TEUS
The challenge is imminent and clear
I firmly believe that with the blessings of President Mahinda
Rajapaksa who eradicated terrorism from our Motherland and with the
guidance of Ports and Aviation Minister Chamal Rajapaksa and Chairman of
the SLPA Dr. Priyath Bandu Wickrama, the SLPA with his determination and
dedication faces the challenge successfully accomplishing two major
projects namely the Colombo South Harbour Project and the Hambantota
Harbour Project, on the given deadline.
Hambantota-industrial and service port
A sea port at Hambantota would intercept the main shipping routes
from Aden to Singapore and tap the west sea traffic of over 100 ships
that presently bypass Sri Lanka on daily basis. The diversion of
Hambantota off the international sea route would be a matter of 40
minutes instead of four hours to Colombo.
Availability of extensive land areas will be developed for port
related activities and its placement along trade routes linking ASEAN
nations with the consumerist economies of the Middle-East, Europe and
America. The demand for bunkering facilities together with
transshipment, break bulking entreport and servicing is constantly
Advantages of Hambantota Harbour
* It is a natural bay
* Protection is afforded by Hambantota headland reducing the impact
* No significant impact due to South Western monsoon waves.
* Brakewater has to be designed mainly to protect the harbour from
the southern swells and sea waves of the North Eastern monsoons.
* Tidal currents are not strong along the Sri Lanka coast.
* The harbour has an area of 200ha with an entrance at the 16-18m
* Minimum depth of 13 meters in respect of the inner harbour area and
other harbour area could be achieved without rock dredging.
* The availability of 5,600 ha of commercially exploitable land for
port related activities.
It is noteworthy to mention that with the humanitarian approach of
the Government the President, Ports Minister, steps have been taken to
provide alternative houses, financial assistance and land for the people
whose traditional houses are lost due to the project. Further, the
Hambantota Harbour project would generate 6,000 direct jobs and 50,000
indirect jobs. The stage one of this giant projects is expected to start
its commercial operations by 2011.
Colombo - South harbour
The proposed Colombo South Harbour will be located west of the
present South West breakwater in an area of approximately 600 hectares.
The proposed harbour will have three terminals each with the length of
1,200m to accommodate three berths alongside depths of 18 meters. The
channel width of the harbour will be 560 meters and the depth 20 meters
with the harbour basing depth 18 meters. Development of the Phase - 1 of
the Colombo south Harbour will be carried out in three stages. The first
stage of development involves infrastructure and construction of one
terminal as a public-private partnership. The Asian Development Bank has
extended a loan of US$300 million for the basic infrastructure of
breakwater and dreadging. The other two stages involve construction of
the other two terminals. The construction work commenced in April 2008
and the terminals will be operational by 2011 or 2012. This project is
expected to be implemented with funds from the Chinese Government. The
total estimated cost of the project is 310 million.
I pay tribute to late Lalith Athulathmudali the then Trade and
Shipping Minister, late Wimal Amarasekara, the first Chairman of the
Authority, late K.S.C.D. Fonseka, Managing Director and late S.K.W.
Dias, General Manager and all past and present employees for their
contribution for the success of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.
The writer is Former Assistant Secretary of the Sri Lanka Ports