Many of those working in the logistics have had no formal training but had acquired the skills over time.
"We don’t have enough skilled staff and our people have a general understanding of what to do in shipping through experience but not through an academic background," Rohan Masakorala, head of Sri Lanka's Shipper's Academy, a training body operated by the industry.
"While we are expanding infrastructure and getting into mega ports it's important that we build our human capital to suite that infrastructure and technology,"
Masakorale say six thousand skilled personnel would be needed by the industry as the island's ports doubles capacity over the next few years.
He was speaking at a shipping forum in Colombo hosted by Sri Lanka Ports Authority and organized by Seatrade, an events company specializing in the maritime sector.
Sri Lanka is on a drive to expand its maritime infrastructure and position the island as a transshipment logistic hub in the South Asian region.
Construction work of the island's new container port south of the Colombo harbour has nearly reached its halfway mark with the breakwater set to complete in two months and the first berth ready by 2013.
The new Colombo port is expected to increase annual capacity to 13 million containers from the current 4.5 million.
The industry says staff needs to be academically qualified and trained in port operations, logistics, and international trade to make ports efficient.
"Shipping lines will look at the most efficient port to get into and our staff will need to be trained in operational aspects, how international trade works, custom procedures, supply chain management and foreign exchange market" Masakorala said.
Competency in human capital will give the island the competitive edge over India on top of its strategic location in the Indian Ocean.
"We need to start training people at different levels and get them academically qualified for us to be an efficient hub in the region" Masakorale said.