The Sri Lankan government announced on Monday its intensified efforts to enhance operational efficiency at the Colombo Port in response to the escalating demand for container cargo operations due to the emergency situation in the Red Sea. This surge is a result of ships rerouting away from the Red Sea following increased attacks by Yemen-based Houthi rebels, opting for an extended route around Africa instead of using the Suez Canal.
Nimal Siripala de Silva, the Ports Minister, has directed officials to optimize Colombo Port’s operations to accommodate the significant increase in container cargo traffic. By mid-January, the port had already experienced an 80% increase in volume, handling nearly 200,000 containers. Sri Lanka Port Authority officials anticipate handling around 7 million containers or TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in 2024.
In 2023, the Colombo Port handled 6.9 million TEUs, showing a slight increase from 6.86 million TEUs in 2022. To accommodate this growing demand, developments are underway at the Colombo Port’s eastern and western container terminals to boost its TEU capacity from 8 million to 8.5 million.
State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya emphasized that the increased operations at the Colombo Port should be viewed in the context of safeguarding freedom of navigation in international waters, a principle that must be protected at all times. Simultaneously, the Sri Lankan Navy has committed to dispatch a vessel to participate in international operations against Houthi rebel attacks on merchant shipping in the Red Sea.