Warning Signs

March 21, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s shipping community is getting increasingly concerned over delays in upgrading Colombo port equipment, building a new birth and the opening of another entrance for navigation. Further delays could endanger Colombo’s status as south Asia’s transshipment hub especially with India expanding its own ports and building new ones to cater to the cargo boom, shipping industry officials said.

Port customers said the re-opening of the northern entrance channel, closed for years owing to security threats, remains their main and most critical concern.

The closure means that vessels calling Colombo can use only one channel to enter or leave the port, causing delays on days when the number of callers increase or tend to ‘bunch up’ as the trade calls it.

Sri Lanka Shippers’ Council officials and representatives of lines calling at Colombo said the port could face congestion with the number of ship calls increasing.

Ship traffic went up 2.8 percent or by 124 ships to 4,576 vessels in 2007.

“The north entrance is closed permanently so pilots can only bring one vessel at a time,” said a Shippers’ Council official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “With more vessels