Officials of the Sri Lanka Port Authority, Sri Lanka Coast Guard, Marine Environmental Protection Authority, Sri Lanka Dockyard and also the representatives of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce were present at the meeting.
During the discussion, the participants were of the view that the ongoing Port Projects, proposed Petroleum Refinery project, which is due to come up in Hambantota, ongoing Oil Exploration work, which is also expected to further expand and the growing Bunker and Ship repair industry will help Sri Lanka’s vision of building up a ‘Naval and Maritime’ hub.
“At the same time, stakeholders also spoke of the risks that could hurt the country’s goal of operating a ‘Naval and Maritime’ hub, according to a chamber release. Stakeholders agreed that the biggest risk Sri Lankan waters face is the possibility of an oil spill risk that could severely affect several key sectors of Sri Lanka’s economy, such as fishing, tourism, port and also cause major environmental damages.
Speaking during the occasion, Jagath Gunasekera, Manager, Operations of the MEPA, the regulatory body formed towards prevention, reduction and control of marine pollution in Sri Lankan waters from ship based and shore base sources said that the “National Preparedness Status of Sri Lanka” to face oil spill damage is at a minimal level.
He said the Sri Lankan sea is highly vulnerable to an oil spill risk, as 25 per cent of the world’s oil transportation, which runs up to a quantity of 550 million tons per annum, passes via Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone. The risk, he says will increase further with the proposed maritime based development projects in the country and also already functioning utilities such as the Oil tank farm in Trincomalee etc.
Stakeholders, present at the meeting agreed with Mr. Gunasekera’s point-of-view and discussed ways and means to come up with a comprehensive oil spill disaster management plan / contingency plan to face an oil spill disaster.