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CASA sheds light on unprecedented shortage in containers and rising freight rates



The following are some selected excerpts from an interview done by CASA (Ceylon Association of Ships’ Agents) to enlighten the industry, on why container shortages are being faced globally and in Sri Lanka and possible alternatives available for the Sri Lankan Exporters & Importers.

 Since the middle of 2020 and the outbreak of COVID-19, the global shortage of shipping containers has become a hot topic. Before the pandemic, experts anticipated a positive growth rate in the container industry through 2024. Yet the current crisis has caused the entire supply chain to function at a snail’s pace or in some instances to come to a relative stand still.

Containers that were mainly shipped from China (Far East) destined to the US and Europe were held up as all twenty four elements pertaining to the cycle of shipping from the depot to the shipper, port to the ship and more were severely affected due to labour shortage, inefficiency at terminals functioning without full force, ships being delayed at ports as the average turn-around time of 80 days exceeded 120 days – causing an unprecedented disruption to the industry.

In the Port of Colombo we handle a throughput of 80% of transshipment cargo out of an estimated total throughput of 6.8 million TEUs with the balance being imports and exports. In Sri Lanka we were able to balance out the requirement of containers for export with the imports despite there being a disparity in terms of the container requirements for exports which is predominantly in 40’s while imports are predominantly 20’s. With the import restrictions imposed by the Government, there was a dip in the imports coming into the country resulting in a shortage of containers mainly 40’ which are required for exports. To meet the 40’ container requirement for exports, the alternative was to reposition empty 40’ containers which is a costly exercise. Shipping lines were not willing to spend extra money to reposition containers. In view of this, most exporters faced a shortage of equipment for their export requirement during the last six months in Sri Lanka.

The freight rates have drastically increased in the long haul; for instance, the Shanghai Rotterdam Index which is mainly the route from Asia to Europe increased by 311% within the last 6-9 months (April to December) in comparison to 2019 -2020. Since the shippers were willing to pay, priority was given to the long haul sectors.

The only way of getting space and equipment for Sri Lankan exporters was to pay higher freight rates in line with what was being charged from the Far east.

Present freight rates shows a significant spike up to three or four fold levels or over 300% levels. Carriers should take in to consideration freight surge ex Sri Lanka too to pave the way for additional vessel space allocations instead of the comparison made with other origins.

It is obvious that other manufacturing load ports are pitched higher than Sri Lanka due to Country’s GDP, own geopolitical structures to name a few.

There are a few key points which were suggested at a Ministry meeting held recently regarding various issues pertaining to the current crisis. One such matter was the excess of 20 foot containers as SL exporters converting to 20 footers incurs an additional  cost but if the shipping lines can provide an alternative in terms of cost,  we can make use of the stagnant lot which would be mutually beneficial for all stakeholders. 

It is a widely known fact that the most popular equipment used by modern day sea transportation is the 4OHQ. There are selected types of commodities which attracts 20DC equipment hence substituting 20DC does not always appear pragmatic.

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‘Govt. lacks mechanism to recover USD 40 billion spirited out of SL from 2008 to 2018’




By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The government doesn’t have any mechanism to recover the USD 40 billion that was siphoned out of the country illegally from 2008 to 2018 by Sri Lanka’s business elites, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics, University of Peradeniya Dr. Kalpa Rajapaksha said.

“Most people think that the IMF loan is a victory for Sri Lanka without knowing its risk factors. These are exceptionally high because one of the main impacts would be for the banking sector whose liquidity is due to weaken on account of high tax impositions and certain economic reforms, Dr. Rajapaksha told The Island Financial Review.

Dr. Rajapaksha added: ‘The tax relief given during President Gotabaya Rajapaksha’s tenure triggered this issue, which cost government coffers more than Rs 450 billion. However, Sri Lanka has to carefully follow IMF recommendations taking its history into consideration. It is said that Greece and Ethiopia and several other countries absolutely failed by following IMF recommendations in the past.

‘We are in the dark as to the method of economic recovery because the government is attending to deeper, burning issues in the country, such as reduction of poverty and ending economic inequities.

‘The imposition of heavy taxes on people, especially professionals, via a wealth tax and a heritage tax by 2025 and the increasing of direct taxes, such as VAT, on low income classes, without taking into account the need for a wage hike, will iraise the poverty level and widen wealth inequalities.

‘Inflation at the global level is very high and strategies are required to increase exports and cut down the heavy import dependency of the economy. This is a prerequisite to address all economic woes.

‘The previous ruling party squandered and stole billions of dollars but the present government not having any plan to recover that money is a tragedy. Therefore, promoting neo- liberal principles is impossible under the current corruption scenario.

‘Further, the IMF has set the target of reducing the debt to GDP ratio to 0.7 per cent in 2023, along with their recommendations. Many people doubt the achievability of these aims.’

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Global banking sector instabilities affect local bourse



By Hiran H.Senewiratne

CSE trading got off to a positive start but later turned negative yesterday due to huge selling pressure. The reasons being investor worries over a domestic debt restructuring mechanism after having secured the IMF loan and the negative global scenario when it comes to the banking sector, market analysts said.

According to analysts, during the last week strategically important banks in the global economic system went through credit default swaps, especially Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank and Credit Suisse Group AG. But another leading European Corporate Bank possibly facing a credit default swap, created some ripple effects for economies like Sri Lanka, analysts said.

The All- Share Price Index went down by 134.1 points and S and P SL20 declined by 51.6 points. Turnover stood at Rs 871 million with two crossings. Those crossings were reported in NDB, which crossed 1.2 million shares to the tune of Rs 51.6 million; its shares traded at Rs 43 and Aitken Spence 772,000 shares crossed for Rs 47.1 million, its shares traded at Rs 61.

In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, SLT Rs 82 million (717,000 shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 52.8 million (8.2 million shares traded), Lanka IOC Rs 50.1 million (298,000 shares traded), Tokyo Cement (Non- Voting) Rs 36.5 million (388,000 shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 33.6 million (251,000 shares traded), ALC Cables Rs 33.3 million (406,000 shares traded) and Sunshine Holdings Rs 27.2 million (633,000 shares traded). During the day 45.4 million share volumes changed hands in 15000 transactions.

The market is generating revenue from SLT over news of it being divested; moreover, there has been interest for the hotel and tourism indexes, since tourist arrivals and earnings have been attractive, an analyst said.

It is said that Treasury bond yields opened steady on Monday, while the rupee opened weaker at spot market, dealers said.

A 01.07.2025 bond was quoted at 30.75/31.00 per cent on Monday, up from 30.90/31.20 per cent on Friday. A 15.09.2027 bond was quoted at 28.00/70 per cent, up from 28.00/50 per cent from Friday. The Sri Lanka rupee opened at 322/325 against the US dollar, weaker from 320/325 a day earlier.

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Holding ‘Raid Amazones’ for second consecutive year in SL, a rare honour for her – Head of Marketing Srilankan Airlines



Flying start to ‘Raid Amazones'

By Hiran H.Senewiratne

More than 250 female French athletes arrived in Sri Lanka for the challenging ‘Raid Amazones’ adventure event that took place last week in Kandy. They arrived in Sri Lanka for the second consecutive year, which was a big achievement for the country when it comes to the tourism sector, Head of Marketing SriLankan Airlines Saminda Perera said.

“For the first time in ‘Raid Amazones’ history they selected one country for two consecutive years, which could be considered a great honour for Sri Lanka. This would enable more French tourists to arrive in Sri Lanka in the future, Perera told the media recently during the event in Kandy. ‘Raid Amazones’ will hit the streets of the fabled hill capital, Kandy, with the participation of over 250 female athletes.

‘Raid Amazones’ is a well-known annual destination adventure event originating in France, which features female athletes competing their way through a range of challenges, such as, orienteering, mountain biking, canoeing, riding, running and archery.

“Sri Lanka was chosen over rival destinations by the event’s founders due to the unparalleled warmth of its people and support on the ground to pull off a successful event. Their decision is also due to SriLankan Airlines’ tireless marketing efforts to secure the popular trail on successive occasions for Sri Lanka in its hour of need for international tourism support, Perera said.

Saminda Perera

Tourism sources added: “During the 21st edition of the trail, the participants will be able to connect with a potpourri of natural and historical highlights as they trek through the Kandyan plateau in Central Sri Lanka.

“Their journey, though, would begin from the moment that they step onboard SriLankan Airlines to fly from Paris to Colombo, on an aircraft dedicated to ‘Raid Amazones 2023’.

“Named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kandy, the iconic setting of ‘Raid Amazones 2023’, is renowned for two of the most recognizable cultural symbols that define Sri Lanka.

“SriLankan Airlines partnered Raid Amazones in 2022 soon after recommencing operations to Paris.

“SriLankan Airlines, together with Connaissance de Ceylan, the official ground- handling partner of the event, will go all out to ensure that the French group experiences the best in Sri Lankan hospitality.

“This event will especially help create more awareness of Sri Lanka as an adventure travel hotspot among French travellers and the rest of Europe, where ‘Raid Amazones’ is sought-after and attracts adventure-seekers.”

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