Fleet Fortunes

May 29, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lanka could make use of the global slump in shipping to rebuild its national merchant fleet as ships without work are now going cheap, the island’s navy chief Wasantha Karannagoda has said. The end of the 25-year-old ethnic war gives the country an opportunity to revive its merchant navy, he said.

Having a national fleet could reduce reliance on foreign shipping, he said in an interview on the ITN state television station.

“Today, the world is facing a crisis and hundreds of ships are laid up because they have no business,” Karannagoda said.

The global downturn in trade and shipping has forced owners to lay up ships that do not have enough work and some new ships are heading straight from yards to lay-up.

“Trade has slumped. Now is a good time to buy ships cheap,” Karannagoda said. “So the country can make use of it and buy ships cheap for future use, but of course funds are needed.”

Karannagoda said the national fleet of 17 ships had dwindled after the economy was liberalised in 1977 and the national carrier, Ceylon Shipping Corporation, faced competition.

“After 1977 our merchant shipping fleet declined. We became dependent on foreign ships. Now we have on