Fisheries Dept. to take over idle Oluvil Harbour

  • Harbour non-operational since 2017 due to sea erosion
  • Costly removal expected for sand collected at entrance


By Imesh Ranasinghe 

The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) will officially hand over the non-operational fisheries harbour at Oluvil to the Fisheries Department and the Ceylon Fishery Harbours Corporation by the end of this month, The Sunday Morning Business learns.

Speaking to us, the Ministry of Fisheries Spokesman said that although the fisheries harbour will be officially handed over to the Fisheries Department and Ceylon Fishery Harbours Corporation by the SLPA, the Fisheries Ministry was yet to make a decision in terms of operation and management.

The Oluvil Harbour, which started construction in 2008 under the “Nagenahira Navodaya” (Eastern Revival) project by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Government, was completed by 2013, but remained idle since then due to issues such as sea erosion, leading to sand getting collected at the entrance to the harbour.

The project was completed with funds received from the Nordea Bank of Denmark, which provided a grant of € 86,100 and an interest-free loan of € 46,009,269 in 2008. This was to be paid back in 20 instalments over a period of 10 years commencing 31 March 2011.

In addition to the loan and the grant, the SLPA had spent a sum of Rs. 426,487,682 for this project during the years 2000-2010.

At the time of completion of construction, the commercial harbour at Oluvil had enough depth to handle ships of up to 5,000 metric tonnes (MT) while the fishery harbour could hold more than 250 fishing boats.

However, with the sand collection, in 2017, the former Government officially closed down the harbour due to unbearable maintenance costs, after many discussions on ways to get it back in business.

On the handing over process, Ministry of Ports and Shipping Additional Secretary – Development Nayana Somaratne said that the fisheries harbour will be handed over to the Fisheries Department stage by stage as per the Cabinet’s directives.

She said although several recommendations given through a study were implemented in order to prevent sea erosion in the harbour, it was financially viable to hand over at the moment, as the SLPA would either have to go for a loan or an investment to clear the sands.

Therefore, she said that a decision was taken to hand over the fisheries harbour at the Oluvil Harbour to the Fisheries Department, as fishing vessels do not require deep harbours to operate.

Also, speaking to us, the SLPA Director – Technical Planning and Development said that as per the recommendation of the above-mentioned study, it would cost $ 3 million annually to remove the sand mechanically and dump it in a place located north of the harbour.

“If there is no return, there is no point in spending that amount of money,” he said.

Moreover, he said that to have a sand bypassing system, the depth of the harbour should be less than three metres, but the commercial port comprises 330 metres of quay with a water depth of eight metres, and the fishing port comprises 200 metres of quay with a water depth of three metres.

He said if the Fisheries Department wants to bring in bigger boats to the harbour at Oluvil, they would have to incur the cost of removing the sand.

Ministry of Ports and Shipping Secretary Chandra Jayalal said that the commercial harbour at Oluvil will still remain under the SLPA.

Earlier last year, the Government tried to revive the fisheries harbour at Oluvil by giving it to Tess Group, the country’s largest fish exporter, but the deal did not go through due to uncertainty regarding the environmental issues with the harbour.