On December 21, 2010, with only ten days left to the year-end, the Port of Colombo [POC] set a new record by handling 4 million Twenty foot equivalent units [TEUs] of containers. This achievement of the Port of Colombo is a synergistic effort of the state-run Jaya Container Terminal [JCT] and the privately-owned South Asia Gateway Terminals [SAGT]. Recently, the state-run JCT single-handedly reached a record throughput of 2 million TEUs in eleven months and by this date the JCT has handled 2.1 million TEUs contributing the lion's share to the overall volume of 4 million TEUs. The remaining 1.9 million TEUs have been handled by the privately-owned SAGT. The historic 4,000,000th container was discharged from the vessel M. V. MSC TIA in a modest ceremony held at the JCT in the presence of Sri Lanka Ports Authority [SLPA], SAGT and MSC officials on the 21st December 2010.
The Managing Director of SLPA, Capt. Nihal Keppetipola commenting on this achievement at the ceremony said that the Port of Colombo has been showcasing its above-average efficiencies through the past few years and this rate of performance achieved for the first time in its history as a combined effort of its state-run and privately-owned terminals is of utmost significance to Sri Lanka which is heading towards becoming a major centre of maritime, trade, logistics, energy and knowledge related services. "It is opportune to note that the throughput performance at the Port of Colombo was erratic or mediocre during early years when ad-hoc and inconsistent policies were being implemented with no coherent vision, and this led to the Port of Colombo being relegated to a lower ranking in the global container market. However, commencing from 2007, the JCT management had the vision to focus and bring back the Port of Colombo to its current status as the major regional hub-port.
It is with a sense of great pleasure and pride, that I place on record the fact that the world's second largest shipping line MSC which had abandoned the Port of Colombo during that period in favor of other competing hub ports, was attracted back to the Port of Colombo by the current management. With the shipping lines now having a choice between two efficiently run terminals, we are indeed privileged to discharge this record 4 millionth TEU from the vessel M. V. MSC TIA at JCT today" added Capt. Keppetipola.
"This upward growth trajectory bespeaks a manifestly futuristic outlook ahead of the Port of Colombo and also sets an example for an ideal test case of Public-Private-Partnership [PPP] arrangements deployed in the Port Management area. The privately-owned SAGT and the state-run JCT have become contenders for each other thus ensuring fair competition as a motivating factor for both players to perform in good spirits" he further said.
With this total TEU handling of 4 million by the Port of Colombo which demonstrates an increase of 20% compared to the same period previous year, the Port of Colombo also shows up an increase of 11 % compared to the total figure of 3.68 million TEUs handled in 2008, the highest-ever performance rate recorded by the Port of Colombo, before recession hit global trade. The state-run JCT also bagged another record recently by handling its highest-ever monthly volume of 201,217 TEUs in August this year achieving an increase of 22% compared to the month of August in 2009. The breakup of this 4 million TEUs handled by the Port of Colombo , includes a 25% increase of local import/export TEUs and an 18% increase of transshipment TEUs over the corresponding period in 2009. The current market share the SLPA holds with SAGT in the month of December up to now is in the proportion 59 : 41.
SLPA Managing Director, Capt. Keppetipola further added "Many initiatives undertaken by us are attributable to this achievement. We replaced the Terminal Operating System at JCT in May last year with Navis™ SPARCS ver. 3.7 and Navis™ EXPRESS ver. 2.9 at a cost of Rs. 800 million and it helped us integrate the entire terminal operation, plan and optimize rapid movement of containers between the gate and the quay, thus reducing dwell times for containers and turnaround times for vessels. A DGPS-based communication system was also added to monitor container stacking and RFID tags will be fully introduced soon as an automatic data collection technology, to record the location of containers and monitor the location and activities of yard vehicles. Covering both JCT and the UCT [Unity Container Terminal] to offer synergetic benefits to our clientele, this system signified a major landmark in SLPA's development endeavors to keep up with the global trends and now the Port of Colombo can be doubtless considered as a technologically matured organization in the region, an essential desideratum to possess an edge over the competitors in the region".
"Last year we reopened the northern entrance, which had been closed for ten years due to security reasons, to facilitate smoother maritime transportation and to increase productivity in the port. This move put an end to the navigation restrictions that have caused congestion at the port causing delays in cargo handling and turn-around times of vessels. Another factor contributed to this achievement was the delisting of Sri Lanka from the war-risk countries category by the Joint War Committee of the maritime insurer Lloyd's of London. We have also finalized a deal to purchase six  gantry cranes, thirty  transfer cranes and fifty  yard tractors next year. My view is that we should pay constant attention on what is happening in regional ports and always endeavor to sustain this growth momentum by creating synergism between the neighboring regions thus ensuring Sri Lanka's 'Mega Hub' status in the future" said Capt. Keppetipola.
"All the above measures taken in addition to the mega port expansion/development and logistics projects costing over US$ 1.5 billion which commenced only a few years ago were only possible because of the appropriate leadership given by the current Chairman Dr. Priyath Bandu Wickrama who revolutionized the current status quo of port operations by building a determined and disciplined management team and better understanding the private terminal and the private sector and obtaining the blessings of His Excellency the President Mahiada Rajapaksa with the guidance of the Ministers and the Ministry officials to carry on" concluded Capt. Keppetipola.