Sri Lanka Ports Authority has decided to convert the Bandaranaike Quay (BQ) in Colombo Port into a fully-fledged cruise terminal to cater to growing post-war cruise ship calls, chairman Lakdas Panagoda told a Ceylon Chamber of Commerce forum.
The BQ is now used as a breakbulk terminal. Part of the quay was also leased by Cairn India during its oil exploration activity in the Gulf of Mannar, which ended in October 2014.
Panagoda said a dedicated cruise ship facility was required as more cruise vessels had begun calling at the island’s ports after the 30-year ethnic war ended in 2009.
The island’s travel trade has identified the lack of a dedicated cruise terminal as one of the biggest obstacles in encouraging more calls by cruise vessels.
Tony Mantara, chairman of Gemini Tours & Travels (Pvt) Ltd, and a former chairman of the cruise tourism subcommittee of the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators, said ‘mega’ ships like the Queen Mary and Queen Victoria were now calling at Sri Lankan ports.
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“Previously they came only occasionally but had problems berthing. Lots of megaships were bypassing Sri Lanka for lack of berthing facilities – we don’t have a proper cruise terminal.”
He said shoreside access is a problem when large vessels dock. At present, cruise ships calling at Colombo must berth at one of its container terminals, which lack the space for the large number of tourist buses needed to take visitors on sight-seeing tours inland.
“It is a very time consuming and difficult process for us to handle a megaship operation because we have 60 to 70 large tourist buses working on ships during calls,” said Mantara.