Don Wootton, regional director, Scott Wilson, a firm of consultants advising the government on expanding its ports, said Colombo has an opportunity to emerge as a port city like other maritime centres.
Wootton has been living in the island since 2003 as the technical director responsible for all aspects relating to the design of the Colombo port expansion project, under which a deep-water port will be built next to the existing harbour.
The 1.2 billion dollar new port is needed to ensure Colombo retains its position as south Asia's transhipment hub and handle the bigger new ships appearing on trade routes.
Wootton said one option for the congested city to exploit the opportunities provided by the planned new port would be to reclaim land to get the space needed for industry.
"The shallow waters on either side of the Kelani river, (north of Colombo) could be reclaimed to develop port related industry," he told a recent seminar on transport infrastructure organised by the Chamber of Construction Industry.
The river's mouth is just north of the port
"Moving industry inland would be costly and it would be easier to reclaim land and link it to new highways that are planned."The government has started building or plans several new roads to connect Colombo to other big towns as well as a 'ring road' to take traffic around the city and reduce congestion.
Wootton said there was a need to have an "integrated transport system" for port to cope with the anticipated cargo flows and truck movements.
"Daily truck movements in and out of Colombo port in 2030 is expected to increase to 25,000 from the present 4,000," he said.
But he said that over 70 percent of the port's traffic is transhipment cargo, which would not move out of the harbour.
So it would only have to consider the impact on roads of domestic cargo like apparel, the island's its main industrial export.
Wootton said the port could use rail transport to link it with inland container depots and container freight stations to ensure domestic cargo movements do not cause traffic problems as it does today.