Sri Lanka port profit, revenues down despite higher volumes

Apr 20, 2014 (LBO) – Operating profits at Sri Lanka’s Ports Authority fell 53.4 percent to 2.4 billion rupees in 2013 with revenues also down 2.3 percent to 37.2 billion rupees, despite an increase in container volumes at Colombo, official data showed.

Expenditure had increased 5.8 percent to 34.8 billion rupees.

Containers handled in Colombo rose 2.8 percent to 4.306 million twenty foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2012. Transshipment containers also rose 3.4 percent to 3.274 million.

Total cargo handed increased by 2.0 per cent to 66.2 million metric tonnes. In Colombo containers are handled by both SLPA and the South Asia Gateway Terminals owned by listed John Keells Holdings. Port related profits at JKH also had been under pressure.

A Chinese-owned terminal opened this year.

“Ports activities showed a turnaround in 2013 despite the challenging global environment,” the Central Bank said in its annual report.

“The gradual recovery of foreign trade, attraction of new shipping lines, port efficiency and productivity improvements helped the turnaround of port services in 2013.”

The number of vessels arriving in Sri Lanka had dropped to 3,976 from 4,134 with vessels calling at Colombo dropping to 3,667 from 3,870.

“Although the number of vessels that arrived at the port of Colombo recorded a decline, the
gross tonnage of container ships that called during the year increased by 0.6 per cent reflecting the arrival of larger ships,” the Central Bank said.

In the new port at Hambantota, 139 vessels had called, up from 34 a year earlier.

Unlike many other over-staffed state enterprises the workforce fell 3.1 percent to 9,886 in 2013 with workers in Colombo down to 9,081 from 9,373. In Galle workers reduced to 370 from 391 and in Trincomalee to 426 from 436. No data was available for Hambantota.

In 2012 also there was a 7.3 percent reduction in the workforce at SLPA.

The ports authority along with Sri Lanka Transport Board and Sri Lanka Railways had been used by two main factions of Sri Lanka’s elected ruling class to stuff with supporters for decades pushing up costs and generating losses, critics say.

A third faction known as the JVP has resisted reforms or attempts to trim staff.

The losses especially at transport utilities which are then covered by taxes collected from the public have been justified on the grounds that they provide a ‘service to the public’.