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Colombo transshipment traffic could shift to India, adding to Sri Lanka's woes

The prospects of Colombo Port losing out on the plum transshipment traffic to east coast ports of India have become imminent because of the ongoing economic crisis and the severe shortage of petroleum products including diesel. Colombo Port has been cornering 80 per cent of transshipment traffic bound for India because of its locational advantage and competitive pricing.

The crisis plaguing Colombo – the busiest intermediate port or transshipment hub for Indian cargo – could see some of the mainline services regularly calling shift to other ports in the region. “Colombo is a major transshipment hub for South Asia, including India, because of its natural locational advantage and competitive pricing,” according to a report by the Market researcher Crisil.

 Domestic ports in the east coast have been reduced to the status of feeder ports

The industry sources however maintain the neglect of infrastructure in domestic ports like VOC Tuticorin and reluctance to implement the Colachel transshipment terminal is responsible for the steady of growth of Colombo port’s transshipment traffic. As the container volumes in Colombo port grew, the domestic ports in the east coast have been reduced to the status of feeder ports. Colombo port’s container terminals have a berth length of 1000 meters and a draft of 20 meters while the neighboring VOC port has a berth length of 335 meters and a draft of 15 meters. The modern container vessels have not been able to enter VOC port for the past fifteen years because of infrastructure limitations.

 The bonanza for Indian ports due to Sri Lankan economic crisis is only temporary

Industry sources said the bonanza for Indian ports due to Sri Lankan economic crisis is only temporary unless the Port and Shipping ministry takes steps to improve the port infrastructure in VOC port and set up a full fledged transshipment terminal at Colachel. The rail connectivity from these ports to hinterland also needs to be toned up.

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