Valachchenai and Dikkowita Fisheries Harbours in progress

 Shirajiv Sirimane, in the Sunday Observer, 28 August 2011

Though Sri Lanka is an island with rich fish deposits, it’s heartbreaking to note that the country imports fish while its neighbour,Maldives, is using the ocean to its maximum advantage and its number one foreign exchange earner is the fisheries industry. This has helped the tiny nation to boast a better per capita income than Sri Lanka. Fisheries experts say that an island nation such as Sri Lanka should not only be self-sufficient in fish, but actually exporting its products. One of the main reasons forSri  Lankato fall back in this area was the 30-year terrorism which put a halt to deep sea fishing. President Mahinda Rajapaksa when he was Fisheries Minister, identified another reason; the lack of harbours to carry out fishing. After identifying this crying need he drew up a plan to construct several harbours, but they remained confined to plans since he did not get State patronage to execute them. Had these harbours been built at the time, the country would not be paying such high prices for fish now.

However, after Rajapaksa became President, he went ahead and started building new fisheries harbours. In a bid to assist the EasternProvince, President Rajapaksa built the Valachchenai harbour at a cost of over Rs. 500 million; it was opened last month. It can accommodate over 400 fishing vessels.  The new harbour consists of fuel stations, ice storage facilities, refrigerators, deep freezers and adequate anchorage. The harbour premises comprise 8.1 hectares of land and the harbour basin is around 11.7 hectares. The entrance to the harbour would be expanded to 70 metres from the present length of 50 metres.

Subsequent to this development, Sri Lanka’s largest fisheries harbour will be opened before the end of the year, heralding a new era in the country’s aquatic sector. The harbour is being built in Dikkowita, in Hendala. The Government has allocated Rs. 8,500 million from the Budget for theDikkowitaFisheriesHarbour. The construction of the harbour is funded by the Sri Lankan Government with an HSBC loan, and the Netherlands Government. The support of the Dutch Government via the ORET program for this project is EUR 17 million.

Operating company: BAM International bv (the operating company of Royal BAM Group nv, active outsideEurope) has been awarded the contract for the design and construction of the fisheries harbour in Dikkowita, about 10 kilometres north of Colombo. The client is the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Royal Haskoning is the engineer. Managing Director, Ceylon Fisheries Harbour Corporation, Lal Samarasinghe said the Dikkowita harbour will provide direct access to the sea for the local fishermen who now have to use the Hamilton Canal and the Negombo lagoon.

The harbour and its facilities will replace the inadequate berthing facilities at various locations and provide high standard facilities to increase the export possibilities.

The harbour will be one kilometre long and the harbour basin is formed by two breakwaters at the seaside and quay walls at the landside. “We are currently dragging the south wing of the harbour and it would be completed in two months”, Samarasinghe said. This new fisheries harbour is built on an 8.1 hectare area and it has 11.7 hectares for the harbour basin. It is designed to handle a daily catch throughput of 125 tonnes of fish per day. The harbour will include an administration building, auction building, a net and glass fibre repair building, a general store with fire fighting equipment, crew amenities, a canteen, fuel and water facilities and a slipway. “It could accommodate 600 vessels,” he said.

Over 6,000 Xblocs were used to construct the breakwaters for the Dikkowita fisheries harbour. Designed by DMC/BAM Infraconsult, their unique shape provides a very stable interlocking structure, while their production requires less concrete than that of traditional elements. A special concrete mix makes it possible to produce two blocs per day with a single mould. The Xblocs are carefully put in to place with crawler cranes and a 75-tonne excavator guided by an ultra-precise differential global positioning system.

Inspection tour: Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne, who was participating in an inspection tour of the Dikkowita fisheries harbour, said the new harbour will help increase the catch due to efficient handling operations in the harbour, to reduce the sailing distance and less waste due to spoilage. The harbour will provide direct and indirect job opportunities and attract local and foreign investments in fisheries. “Arrangements are under way to begin the construction of the Mannar and Gandara fisheries harbours. They will be completed by next year,” he said. The Panadura fisheries harbour was damaged by the 2004 tsunami. It was reconstructed with Chinese financial assistance. As a first step China had allocated Rs. 300 million to construct the southern breakwater of the Moratuwa-Panadura fisheries harbour.

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