One of the yachts already in Galle Port
Minister Tissera visiting the Galle Port
Some of the ships docked in Galle
Picture by Shirajiv Sirimane
The Ruhunu Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Harbour became the first international Port in the annals of the Sri Lanka maritime history after almost 200 years.
The Oluvil Port is set to open next January while the much awaited and long overdue Colombo South Harbour development finally took off the ground.
With the planned 2.5 million tourist arrivals by 2016, the need arose to broadbase the entry points to Sri Lanka. With this in mind construction began on the second international airport at Mattala and the Colombo airport. The other regional airports too are being developed.
The new airlines will increase frequency and the airport development plans could meet the demands of tourists sailing in cruise liners. The number of yachts also expected to increase by over 40 percent globally. For the first time in the regional maritime history Sri Lanka has embarked on building the region's first tourist Port at Galle in a bid to capture a share of this growing market.
The facilities for yachts at Galle Port were damaged during the tsunami and the proposed development will provide a fully fledged yacht Marina for the Galle Port to facilitate the calling yachts and attract more yachts. The development of Galle Port as a tourist destination will act as a catalyst to economic growth of Southern Sri Lanka. At the next stage, berthing facilities will be provided for passenger cruise ships. The yacht lifting facility and yacht repair workshop will be provided, soon.
Former Minister of Ports and Aviation Dayashritha Tissera who toured the Galle Port early this month said that the government planned to provide a one stop facility to high spending tourists in Galle.
"They can come in their yachts, anchor them in the Galle harbour and tour the country while the Port will look after their vessels," he said.
In addition, the Galle harbour management would also attend to repairs and also engage in refuelling and providing all essential items for yachts to embark on their return journey.
Opportunities emergeNew business opportunities would emerge as there would be need to provide them transport facilities, essential items in bulk and several other logistics.
The City of Galle seems to gear to this as one could see houses and even shops being converted to mini-hotels opposite the entrance to the Galle Port. A new supermarket is under construction to meet the future demands.
Arrangements are being made to have customs and emigration offices in a more organised manner. All Buildings and those acquired will be modified to improve the existing facilities and land acquisition is now in progress.
In addition the Galle harbour is also looking for retailers to operate the proposed duty free shop. An air-conditioned and upmarket style Club house and a restaurant too are being built under this expansion program.
The Ports Authority which oversees the operations is now set to build a mini star hotel in the Port which could act as a transit point. A tourist information Centre along with other facilities such as laundry, and a special building for showers and toilets will be built.
The service and repair facility for yachts would bring high revenue to the country. This would help Galle to become a major attraction for yachts. The Sri Lanka Ports Authority has already called for tenders to find a suitable player for this project.
Since Galle caters to tourists with five star hotels being built, passengers have the facility to be in their yachts until such time their yacht is being attended to.
The new trend in which high class passengers on board the yacht would leave the vessel with the crew and travel to Colombo and take a flight to their home, opens new areas for business opportunities.
Under the first phase, the basic facilities will be developed to berth 50 yachts in the harbour.
The project which will start next year, will be completed within one year. The total project cost would be Rs. 125 million.
A cargo ship anchored in Galle
The government will invest Rs. 175 million on this project.
The Japanese Government has granted US$ 135 million to develop the Galle port as a regional port.
The city of Galle from the Portuguese era is rich in heritage sites. Due to its strategic position in the Indian Ocean, Galle has served for many years as a hub of cultures with the Dutch leaving a remarkable history.
World's best attractionsThe International Yacht Society has recognised the Galle Port as one of the world's best attractions. The increase in the arrival of these yachts has revived the tourism industry in general and Galle in particular.
The urban population depends on the tourist and fisheries industries and the government is also keen to develop the fisheries sector. At presently 40 multi-day fishing vessels use the facilities in the harbour and plans are under way to provide better facilities for them.
Galle reached the height of its development in the 18th century before the arrival of the British who later developed the Colombo harbour.
Successive governments continue to follow this policy and very little development has taken place in Galle. The Koggala Free Trade Zone and the domestic airport lay idle while very little development had taken place in the Harbour.
With the Galle Port to be developed as a Tourist harbour, the southern capital Galle would receive an economic boost which would lift the living standards of the people to even greater heights.
Courtesy - Sunday Observer - By Shirajiv SIRIMANE