CASA conducts their 55th Annual General Meeting virtually

CASA conducts their 55th Annual General Meeting virtually

CASA, the voice of the shipping industry held their Annual General Meeting on 17th August 2021 virtually with the attendance members and stakeholders.

Ms. Shehara De Silva, Group Managing Director of McLarens Shipping Ltd was elected as Chairperson creating history as the first woman chairperson of CASA. Mr. M.I.S. Sabar, Group Director of Hayleys Advantis Limited was elected as Vice Chairman and Mr. Janesh Ratnadasa, Executive Vice President of Asha Shipping Ltd. was elected as the Treasurer.


The following speech was made by the Chairperson after assuming duties as Chairperson CASA.

Minister of Ports, Shipping and Southern development,  honorable Rohitha Abeygunawardana, State Minister of Warehouse Facilities, Container Yards, Port Supply Facilities & Boats & Shipping Industry Development,  Hon. Jayantha Samaraweera, &  honerable Secretaries to the above  Ministries  U D C Jayalal, and  Dhammika Mataraarachchi, Director General of Merchant Shipping Mr. Ajith Seneviratne, Director General of Customs Maj Gen Ravipriya , Chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority captain Nihal Keppetipola, distinguished invitees from Government authorities  and industry associations, Members of the CASA Advisory Council, Past Chairmen of CASA,  executive committee members and fellow CASA members,

It is with great honor that I address you all as the newly elected chairperson of the Ceylon Association of Shipping Agents. I thank you all for the confidence placed in me to lead this prestigious association.   With a rich history dating back to 1944, CASA has been the bedrock institution which has played a pivotal role the shipping industry. The past chairmen have been visionary and resilient throughout the years and continue to provide direction and support to CASA in their advisory capacity. I thank you all for inspiring me to take on this mantle and I am confident to serve our members and work for the betterment of our industry in these unprecedented times.

Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate Shano Sabar and Janesh Ratnadasa on being elected as vice chairman and treasurer and I am confident we will work as an excellent team. I wish to thank outgoing chairman Iqram Cuttilan for the leadership given to exco in the past two challenging years and wish to seek you continuing support as immediate past chairman.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank CASA Exco and subcommittee chairpersons for the excellent work done. I must appreciate and honor the services of the CASA Secretary General Ralph Anadapa who is also a past chairman has been a tower of strength and also a valuable source of knowledge in any issue we are faced with.


Maritime hub and economic potential – priorities for government

Ladies and gentlemen, the ports of Colombo, Hambantota, Galle and Trincomalee are strategic national assets with the shipping industry at its core.  The importance of the shipping agents as an exporter of services, facilitators of trade and earner of valuable foreign exchange as has been in fact underplayed. The geopolitical and economic importance of the island’s strategic positioning and how to reap the full potential has been discussed and debated in many forums.

CASA has recognized the top priorities for Sri Lanka to monetize the ocean economy and transform from being a transshipment hub to serve the region as an integrated maritime services center. High on the priority list would be to build state of the art port capacity and infrastructure to cater to all types of vessels including container, break bulk , roro and cruise ships keeping abreast with developing regional ports who continue to offer an attractive alternative to shipping lines.  In 2021 we have seen a significant development of the long awaited operationalization of the east container terminal after a lapse of 5 years. The industry is hopeful that the full potential of this terminal will be achieved by procuring the cranes and equipment as per the schedule. We wish to thank our Minister honorable Rohitha Abeygoonewardena in his commitment to take active and timely decisions to the issues faced by the industry and always give a fair hearing to the industry stakeholders.

On the same note we wish to extend our fullest support to the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, SAGT and CICT in marketing the port of Colombo with the shipping lines and growing the volumes of vessels and cargo and work hand in hand to further improve the process efficiency through digital transformation which is the need of the hour. The industry eagerly awaits the implementation of an integrated port community system which will greatly enhance the ease of doing business ranked high on the priority list.    Further, CASA also will continue to work closely with the all the border agencies who are stake holders in our industry such as customs, immigration, director general of merchant shipping , ministry of defense and ministry of  health and stress the importance of timely resolution of practical issues faced in day-to-day operations.

CASA members have also been instrumental in developing the value added ancillary services to ships such as supply of bunkers, provisions , facilitating crew changes,  marine waste management and marine insurance. Developing the regulatory landscape and physical infrastructure further to improve the quality and speed of these services at competitive pricing is yet another vital area for government and policy makers to take note. CASA members along with the Ceylon Shipping Corporation have been pioneers in building the country’s base of ship owners. Vessel ownership along with ship managers, supplying ship’s crew and maritime education centers all need to be incentivized and promoted as part of the national maritime priorities, which in turn contribute as a key forex earner to the nation.


Global Issues in past year and role of industry and casa

Globally, ports are facing a back log as covid 19 pandemic continues to cause havoc in the world’s supply chains. The capacity crunch and surging demand, supply restrictions has led to shortage of equipment and space, longer turnaround time of containers and soaring freight rates. Despite the challenges, the port of Colombo and the shipping services stakeholders have continued to function and facilitate essential services and commodities thought the lockdowns.  The front-line staff did in deed rise to this challenge by risking their own safety and innovating to transform digitally and continued to serve the trade. Shipping lines are by law not permitted to collect Terminal handling charges as a separate charge as they do in reginal ports, and this makes Colombo a less attractive and costly destination. Shipping agents have faced a daunting task of advocating for space on vessels for import export cargo and convince lines to reposition containers to Colombo despite the restrictive local regulations.

The past year 2020/ 2021 has brought some unique challenges and CASA has been in the forefront , actively engaged in providing practical solutions. The pandemic brought an unique opportunity for Sri Lanka to position ourselves as a crew change hub for foreign seafarers. CASA identified this opportunity and advocated to his excellency the President Gotabhaya Rajapake to enable the transfer of the sea farers through industry operated transport and isolation centers under the watch of the Sri Lanka Army and Navy and strict health protocols. Infact, CASA was instrumental in drafting the standard operating procedure and initializing the service by marketing it to our principals.   While being allowed to operate, CASA operations team were able to safely transfer over 3000 seafarers

It is however now unfortunate that this service of  transfer and operation of  isolation centers  is in fact monopolized by one party and casa is unable to secure the required permissions to operate despite the criteria being fulfilled. This has resulted in loss of volume of sea farers handled in Sri Lanka ports and also valuable foreign exchange for the member and the country.  Similarly casa members who are key stakeholders in the transport of private maritime security personal and have developed a thriving industry over the years using Galle as a transfer point to vessels prior to entering the high risk area. It is vital that we continue to give a competitive offering to sea marshal companies to affect their transfers using Sri Lanka as a base and not lose out to the low cost alternative of the floating armories in the red sea.

The most unfortunate incident of the MV- Xpress pearl was also another event which shook the entire maritime community. This incident was also an eye opener to the liabilities faced by the shipping agent.  The role of the agent has been highlighted through this incident as a party who is criminally liable in the event of a pollution incident, despite the fact that the agent does not control the vessel nor the stowage of dangerous cargo on board vessels nor does the agent pack the containers and therefore in no position to confirm that same is as per IMO standards as required by the port authority declarations. Casa has taken an active role to advocate for amendment of the relevant act to position the agent in line with his actual responsibilities of reporting the dangerous cargo details to the ports authority in time and also notify any damage thereof in time. We stress that if the agent has not shown any negligence in this respect that in fact he should be indemnified of criminal liability arising from the pollution as is the case in other countries.

Over the years, CASA has been a key stakeholder in the formulation of national policy in line with the national interest and fostering entrepreneurship. The past year proved the value of having local ownership in shipping agency business as foreign exchange was in fact retained within the country and not entirely repatriated, if in fact the ownership was entirely foreign.  The much debated topic of liberalizing the shipping agency business to make sri Lanka a maritime hub has in fact proved to be a myth. These are false impressions created by vested interest when in fact the industry is already liberalized.


Education and youth

CASA is a strong believer in continuous knowledge and capacity building and also disseminating relevant information to in this highly changeable and dynamic industry. Our education subcommittee continues to organize relevant programs and also collaborate with education institutes for the training of shipping agency personnel onshore and off shore. The casa publicity committee has made the casa e- ship schedules a must have  bulletin and made the bridge magazine an extremely interesting publication encompassing a much broader range of topics surrounding the maritime landscape. The future of the industry is our youth and casa’s youth arm young ship have played an engaging role in the industry fostering the growth of young shipping professionals.


Gender and future

Ladies and Gentlemen I have a mammoth task at hand and  I am confident to say I am not afraid of hard work and my passion and commitment to the industry is strong. It is fair to say that our industry too is evolving – me – addressing you today as the first women Chairperson at the helm of a largely male-dominated association and industry – is a testimony to this.  While thanking you all for the support I have received in the industry so far, I want to stress that I hope to see more women in this industry creating waves. I do not advocate feminism as a means create separation with genders but believe in men and women working together for a common objective.  My only and humble request is that we can all be aware of unconscious bias against women in our industry and work towards a more level playing field enabling women to rise and contribute creating gender parity and ultimately reap the proven economic benefits for all.

On that note, I would once again like to thank all of you for joining us this evening, and I would especially like to thank the AGM committee who made a tremendous effort to organize casa’s first ever digitally broadcast AGM despite the changes in regulations at the final hour.  With all your support I am confident that casa can continue to be the most recognized voice in the shipping industry in the coming years.

Stay safe , Thank you and May God bless you all !