Sri Lankan government’s initiative of fully opening up the shipping sector to foreign shipping lines to set up their offices in the island and provide maritime services to both and world wide traders is a far reaching move towards becoming a maritime hub in the region, shipping experts said.
Even at present all the main shipping related functions are being handled by the principal shipping lines through its Sri Lankan agents although they have a majority stake in the company.
These local agents play an intermediary role for that they get commission from the foreign partner, they pointed out adding that siphoning of much needed foreign currency is taking place on a large scale under the present set up.
In fact those local shipping agents are like puppets on strings at present as all the main functions are handled by their foreign principals.
Minister Mangala Samaraweera‘s budget proposal is aimed at creating a more liberal regime to attract major global players to invest in Sri Lanka, they claimed.
Such top companies should be allowed to operate without the involvement of the middle men and it will open the gates for Sri Lankan exporters and importers to get their shipping services directly from foreign shipping lines, shipping experts asserted.
Sri Lanka’s shipping sector on Friday strongly objected to the government’s budget proposal to lift the restrictions on foreign ownership in shipping and freight forwarding agencies.
However Ceylon Association of Shipping Agents (CASA) and Sri Lanka Logistics and Freight Forwarders Association (SLFFA) vehemently protested against the government’s move claiming that it will not bring in any additional investments or benefits to the country as envisaged.
Allowing up to 100 percent foreign ownership in cases where the shipping company would make a significant investment over a period of time will be favourable for the country rather than maintaining companies of local shipping agents, shipping experts said.