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Maritime connectivity: Committee to study IMO request

Maritime connectivity: Committee to study IMO request

10 Jun 2023 | By Asiri Fernando

The Government last week appointed a stakeholder committee to study a request by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to review the vessel Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) located south of Dondra Head, The Sunday Morning learns.

The shipping lanes which ply south of Sri Lanka are invaluable to the island’s economy and commerce, being the lifeblood of the Colombo and Hambantota Ports. 

The IMO has requested Sri Lanka to review the shipping lane structure south of the island due to concerns about ship collisions with whales, other marine life, and small vessels.

According to the IMO, the TSS located south of Dondra Head in Sri Lanka serves one of the largest marine trade lanes in the world. This trade corridor serves thousands of ships engaged in trade between Asia and Europe as well as important trade bound for destinations in the Indian Ocean and other locations connected to this major East-West marine traffic corridor. 

Monitoring data indicates that over 40,000 ships transit through these waters every year.

When contacted, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry told The Sunday Morning that the Government had appointed a stakeholder committee to study the requests led by President’s Senior Advisor on Climate Change Ruwan Wijewardene and Navy Commander Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera. 

Minister Sabry would not comment on a timeline for the committee to review the TSS and the IMO request.

“The unfortunate overlay of the existing TSS with a major marine feeding ground for an important population of blue whales has long been recognised as one of the most significant areas in the world where the risk of ship strikes is very high. This is a function of one of the busiest traffic separation schemes in the world coinciding with a major marine feeding area,” the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the IMO said in a recent report issued following its 80th session.

The IMO decided to call for the establishment of a new TSS south of Sri Lanka following the sessions held in April.

“The exceptional marine productivity of the waters under the existing TSS attracts a broad array of marine species, including a diverse and abundant fishing stock. For this reason, hundreds of relatively small fishing vessels fish the waters underlying the TSS. This leads to a very unfortunate situation where many small fishing vessels are present throughout the day and night, operating in extremely close proximity to the traffic lanes. 

“In addition, these fishing vessels by necessity transit across the traffic lanes as they position and reposition themselves to harvest in these waters. The nature of the risk is especially obvious at night, when ship masters describe the unnerving sight of numerous small moving lights (from the small fishing vessels) moving in close proximity and across the shipping lanes,” the IMO report explained. 


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