Vision & Mission

Stage by Stage Development and Historical Background

The people in ancient times began walking in the forest which marked the beginning of transport. Over the centuries, transportation transformed even into space travelling that we experience today. Theses human activities paved the way for innovations such as foot coverings, skis, and snowshoes etc. even at early stages because humans could never be satisfied with what they have. The world’s major civilizations developed along rivers, which have both united and divided human communities. The people in the past were able to walk on barefoot in a small area. The later innovations lengthened the distances the people could travel. Before the invention of wheel, the number of things people could transport over long distances was limited.

 

The people used donkeys and horses for travelling and transporting goods on land thousands of years ago. Around 3,500 BC, the wheel was invented that changed the way people travelled and transported goods. Rivers provided a steady supply of drinking water and made the land fertile for growing crops and made transportation easier. The people who were in upper banks of the river could float things in the water and they reached through natural means. It was found easier than transporting on land. Making of sailing ships began in Mesopotamia since Mesopotamia was located between two rivers, the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers that made travelling across the rivers a necessity.

 

In 1519, Magellan sailed from Spain in five ships. Three years later only one ship, the Victoria, could come back to Spain after circumnavigating the world. Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese explorer was the first European to reach India by sea. The more distance they travelled, the more they saw the unseen treasures that belonged to the people in other countries. Those who travelled long distance had two motives. One was capturing the treasures that were abandoned in other countries and not available in their own country. The other was fighting with the natives and invading the land. They got the goods through a barter system initially and later bought for money. The trade agreements between countries gradually helped to avoid wars and sustain stable networks due to increasing inter-dependency. After world war II, the countries realized the necessity of a systematic approach to strategically regulate the trading system. These historical events were landmarks in transportation and international trade.

 

When transport modes expanded removing barriers with huge travel distances, the information and communication technology transformed the universe into a global village. With the globalization of markets and production, passenger transport and transportation of goods became more important development schedules.

 

The people of my generation especially who were born during the post-war baby boom (1946 – 1964) have witnessed many changes to realize what the world looks like today. Conceptually, the demand for transport is derived from trading. Regarding international supply networks, the international trading is the key. Accordingly, any political, economic, social, technological, environmental, ecological, and legal factors will directly impact the international trading patterns. As a result, the activities in the global supply network become volatile and complicated. This reality makes the knowledge, skills, attitude and competence in transport, logistics and supply network a fundamental game changer in today’s context. When theses transformations are carefully analyzed against the relevant theoretical background and applied in real-life environment, it naturally becomes tacit knowledge.

 

Therefore, the recording our lifetime experience for the benefit of future generation is of paramount importance. I have seen many transformations taking place in my life, too. We have seen the impact of new technologies such as IoT, Big data, AI, and Blockchain, Satellites, Planes, Phones etc. We have also experienced treaties and industrial realities worldwide like GATT, WTO, Globalization, Containerization, Space travel, Automobiles, Covid-19 and more. The following global timeline, I’ve witnessed during my lifetime would be useful for younger generations to know.

Global Timeline

1961: Yuri Gagarin becomes the first person in space and to orbit the earth

1969: Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong walks on the moon

1976: The Concorde travelled faster than the speed of sound

1977: Rise of the PC (Personal home computers)

1983: The birth of the Internet

1994: Online bookstore Amazon.com is Born

1998: The age of the Google search engine begins

2000: International Space Station opens

2001: 9/11 attack in the USA

2004: Facebook founded

2007: The iPhone

2009: Formation of BRICS economic bloc

2010: The iPad was introduced

2010: Instagram was launched

2011: World population reached 7 billion

2011: Spacecraft to visit Jupiter and Mars

2019: COVID-19 pandemic began in Wuhan, China

It is also important to consider the domestic transformations that have taken place to get a realistic view of the present context. Everyone has learnt that Sri Lanka’s main traditional exports are tea, rubber and coconut. However, a diversification of the Sri Lankan economy took place in 1960’s and the early 1970’s in the form of import substitution, producing for the local market goods that the island could no longer afford to import. The initiatives were taken by Her Excellency Srimavo Bandaranaike who came to power in 1970. She implemented nationalisation programme. That was the last election held under the Soulbury Constitution.

 

The economic and social transformations introduced by the government brought an unexpected period of suffering for the people. The strict controls on imports resulted in scarcity of most essential items forcing people to get up and wait in queues from 5.00 a.m. even for a loaf of bread as remembered by the people living in 1970’s. Rice was prohibited to be eaten on Tuesdays and Fridays to promote native foods such as tropical varieties of yam, manioc and sweet potatoes. The consumption of sugar and flour was strictly controlled, and ration books were issued to get them on weekly basis from cooperative society shops. The state even dominated international trade and payments; the plantation, financial, and industrial manufacturing sectors; domestic wholesale and retail trade. It is true that Sri Lanka also had some success in diversifying exports after 1970.

 

This government established the free, sovereign and independent Republic of Sri Lanka in 1972, breaking the last ties of colonialism. The British-owned plantations were nationalized and there was Land Reform that gave land to the poor rural people. The 1977 landslide election victory by His Excellency J.R. Jayewardene of United National Party was largely a social reflection of the perceived failures of the closed economy and a major shift that supported a deregulated, open economy. The expansion in the industrial sector resulted in higher imports of intermediate goods. Developments in infrastructure facilities, construction and the transport sector, combined with increased use of advanced technology, increased the import of investment goods. This is how I was fortunate to experience the fundamentals of GATT at the age of 10. Later, I was exposed to some tragedies of 1971 Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) insurrection. The first social change I remember most is the change of education system to G.C.E.(ordinary Level) and (Advanced Level) Examination from N.C.G.E. and H.N.C.E Examinations. The scholarship examination changed from the year 7 to year 5. I was a member of the NCGE first batch and had the opportunity of experiencing all pros and cons of the substantial difference. I also sat for G.C.E. (ordinary Level) examination to experience the real variation in the methodology.

 

Ceylon Shipping Corporation (CSC) became a statutory Corporation and Sri Lanka ‘s Flag Carrier in 1971. CSC owned 9 conventional vessels and 8 Container Vessels, one of which was Lanka Kalyani in which I was fortunate to sail in 1981. In keeping with the open-economy policy of 1977, the country’s first Free-trade zone (FTZ) was established in 1978. Upali Wijewardene was appointed as the first chairman/Director General of the Greater Colombo Economic Commission (GCEC) (now known as the Board of Investment) of Sri Lanka. I joined GCEC as an Authorized Officer in 1983. This was the opportunity, I got to explore the fundamentals of customs as the job was mainly about verification of duty-free consignments that belonged to investors.

 

Sri Lanka continued with mixed economic trend and I had the opportunity to experience the rise and fall of Central Freight Bureau of Sri Lanka (CFB). Subsequently, the so-called national shipping liberalization that took place in 1990 made way for many international shipping lines to offer services in Sri Lanka. Later, I made use of the opportunity to serve three world famous shipping lines namely, MOSK, UASC, and SCI through their agency offices in Colombo during 1990-2012. Given the strategic advantage of our strategic geographic location, Port of Colombo was able to secure strong position after containerization where I saw the impact of Indian Cabotage Law to our 75% of transhipment cargo port throughout.

 

I have personally experienced shipping lines withdrawing from Sri Lanka due to port congestion. I personally got involved in convincing UASC line to resume ships in Colombo and failed miserably in two occasions. Having resumed services in Sri Lanka but berthing of ships again delayed more than 48 hours generating huge losses. I was exposed to closure of ANERA and IPBCC as I represented Sri Lanka in IPBCC meetings held in India. ISPS and US Advance manifest system, EU Antitrust Law, IMO IMDG amendment 2008 came into force during my active involvement in liner shipping. So the real background and various consequences were very familiar to me. I was fortunate to attend many international conferences in various countries to get first-hand experience in these matters. Therefore, rather than merely adhering to various rules and regulations that are in force now, shipping professionals in this era have hands on experience about these transformations.

 

I experienced container ships acquiring economies of scale by increasing the capacity from 1,500 TEUS to 25,000 TEUS to facilitate the development shipping lines that wanted to sell slots to other carriers. I got involved in slot sharing negotiation between carriers. Initially I strongly objected this move citing its marketing disadvantages to the slot offeror. Later, I realized its overall benefit in the bigger picture. Accordingly, I observed shipping lines establishing consortiums and share slots among competitors. It has been a kind of paradigm shift and led me to argue with myself the reason for not using containers. The huge cost lines incur on reposition containers due to imbalance of container inventories that led me to research on the possibilities of exchanging containers. Joint venture agreements that were formed overnight by some leading carriers, acquisitions, closing of some famous international shipping companies were part and partial during my tenure. Transformation of 1 PL to 10PL and its impact on shipping was evident during our active participation in the industry. The transformations of storekeeper to warehouse manager and shipping manager to supply chain expert were evidenced, too. A few days ship operation in port was converted to a few hours. Payment of informal incentives in port was seized and the state monopoly in port operation was gradually changed to private sector competition.

 

Logistics and transport education were commenced at university level. As a result, the industry was able to recruit qualified young professionals to face new challenges. With University Grants Commission awarding selected non-state higher education institutions on merit to offer Undergraduate and Master degree programs, a substantial enhancement in knowledge, skills and competence in young generation was noticed.

 

CINEC was instrumental in introducing logistics as a part of school curriculum in 2017. The first textbook on logistics in Sinhala was authored by me during 2018-2021 introducing new transport theory. First Sinhala textbook about ships, ports and international trade was also authored by me during 2020-2021 introducing Virtual Container Yard, a new concept in container shipping.

 

I reiterate an implementation gap in transport operation in Sri Lanka at policy making level. In academic teaching, transport and logistics usually go as combined disciplines. Accordingly, transport operations get the strategic input from logistics concepts. So, both should go hand in hand. I have been promoting that logistics to make it recognized as an explicit subject under a statutory body in Sri Lanka and this was even highlighted in my inaugural speech at the first ever Logistics Award Ceremony in Sri Lanka organized by CILT where I acted as the event Chairman.

 

Moreover, a grant was awarded by World Bank to the management faculty of CINEC to conduct an educational research on “Development of a mechanism that leads to a psychological paradigm shift in student’s demand and enrolment for various academic disciplines in the tertiary education in Sri Lanka”. I was instrumental in submitting an education policy proposal to the Ministry of Education which focused, inter alia, with introducing evolving subjects in schools. This will undoubtedly facilitate vertical integration between school-university-industry which is of critical importance for the development of Sri Lanka.

My Vision and Mission have been given here with the aforementioned background in mind.

Vision

“To live as full as the world may allow me to and to die with no regrets”

Mission

I will attain this by absorbing the wealth of Transformative knowledge and thereby inspire the younger generation to become true members of the contemporary Knowledge Society, create an appetite for Research and Development, lead to making them Technology Savvy, develop Communication Excellence, and encourage them to reciprocate to the society with Smart Logistics for what the world has been providing to make their lives comfortable.