Oluvil Fisheries Port reopened | Sunday Observer

Oluvil Fisheries Port reopened

28 August, 2022
Minister Devananda and TESS Chairman Fernando at the reopening
Minister Devananda and TESS Chairman Fernando at the reopening

Reawakening the fisheries livelihoods in the Eastern Province, the much awaited and long overdue Oluvil Fisheries Port was reopened recently after a lay off of nearly a decade.

The main initiative was taken by the Minister of Fisheries Douglas Devananda along with several other Government and private sector companies.

The harbour was constructed by the Danish Construction Company MT Højgaard and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) and was opened in 2008 as a part of the Nagenahira Navodaya Development Program with an investment of Rs. 1.6 billion as a Danish-funded project making it the biggest development project in the region.

It has one of the best cool room storage facilities in Sri Lanka, fuel and gas stations, fisheries auction area, water treatment facilities, administrative office and large space for vehicular movement and several other infrastructure needed for the fisheries sector.

However, after operating and functioning for several years, the then authorities’ cold shouldered this project which resulted in accumulation of sand dunes at the entrance to the harbour making vessels inaccessible. Though several appeals were made to clear this it was not heeded and the harbour was closed down for nearly a decade effected the livelihoods of nearly 100,000 people who had no option but to look for other employment.

Following several requests to the former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe a special investigation team was sent to the harbour for a fact-finding mission and to prepare a report towards reopening the harbour.

Based on these findings plans were made to reopen the harbour and dredgers were used to clear the sand.

An official from the harbour said that credit for the reopening should go to now President Wickremesinghe, Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda, Fisheries Ministry Secretary Indu Ratnayake and TESS Group for quickly taking the administrative and construction measures to assist in opening the harbour again.

He said that Oluvil is strategically positioned in an important geographical location in the Eastern province. “There is no harbour within about five hours of sail time and in a storm or any other emergency, the Oluvil Port can play a major role.”

In order to give additional income to the SME sector opening new livelihoods for them as well as the harbour management fish processing, small boat construction, repair, initiatives too would be opening up soon.

“The opening of the harbour will help to increase, fish supply to Sri Lanka and with increased demand it will have a positive impact towards reduction of the prices as well. The fish caught in Eastern waters can be processed here and re-exported helping to earn foreign exchange as well, “ said Director TESS Shiran Fernando’ The opening of the port will also once again restore 20,000 of employment opportunities in the region.

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 metresa, according to a spokesman for the company.

The commercial harbour with shore facilities can cater for general cargo vessels that provide for the needs of the region, including coastal passenger transport, with provision for expansion in the future.