Colombo Port Witnesses Surge in Container Volumes Amid Red Sea Tensions
January 17, Colombo (LNW): Sri Lanka’s Colombo port has experienced a significant increase in container volumes in recent weeks, attributed to vessels diverting from tensions in the southern Red Sea. Shipping companies are opting for Colombo as a transit point, avoiding the conflict-ridden Red Sea route.
Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have targeted ships in the Red Sea since November, disrupting a crucial route accounting for approximately 12% of global shipping traffic. In response, some shipping companies are rerouting vessels around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, despite it being a slower and costlier alternative.
Colombo’s strategic location has made it a preferred hub for ships seeking access to the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia. Lal Weerasinghe, a senior official at the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), explained that Colombo is the first hub ships encounter after passing South Africa, making it a convenient port for access.
The Port of Colombo, a key link between Africa, the Middle East, and East Asia, recorded a 2% increase in container volumes, handling 6.94 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2023, with a notable 15% jump in TEUs in December alone.
Over the past four to six weeks, shipping lines have sought additional berthing windows, and transshipment volumes from neighboring India have also risen. Weerasinghe noted an increase of approximately 1,000 TEUs per day, leading to a need to decline requests from some shipping lines to avoid delays for existing customers.
Mediterranean Shipping Company accounts for up to 50% of the increased traffic. Colombo is increasingly being utilized as a relaying port, with ships offloading their entire cargo to different vessels.