The first consignment of vehicles would be offloaded at the Hambantota port next week although no date is yet confirmed, authorities said. Following discussions with second hand vehicle importers, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) was readying the southern port to provide the necessary facilities to ensure a smooth operation once vessels call at the port.
Hambantota Port Chief Engineer Agil Hewageegana told the Business Times that all arrangements were underway to provide the necessary port related facilities. The port would be able to accommodate nearly 5000-7000 cars at its yard site initially. Plans are underway to create a space of 2.5 Ha for yard space at the Hambantota port.
At present the Customs Department, Finance and Logistics divisions have been established within the port in a bid to ensure that all operations would be carried out smoothly, the chief engineer said. However, due to the recent hike in import duties on vehicles the expected number of shipments are likely to be lower, Mr. Hewageegana said. This was reiterated by Vehicle Importers Association President Yoga Perera in an interview with the Business Times.
He said the industry was currently negotiating with the vehicle carriers in a bid to ensure vehicles could be transported from Hambantota to Colombo or anywhere on the island. "Initially we would get the vehicles transported from car carriers," he said adding that some in the industry would be likely to outsource transportation and clearance of vehicles from the Hambantota port. In this respect, vehicle costs were expected to increase in the range of Rs.15,000 - 20,000, he said due to the transportation costs incurred by importers.
Vehicle importers have noted a 60% drop in sales but believe in a few months this situation was likely to settle down once buyers realize the costs would continue to remain. No date has yet been fixed for the first shipment of vehicles to call at the Hambantota port although they were scheduled to make it after May 31.