‘All resources to build and repair ships harnessed’:
Much potential to strengthen shipping industry
There is a much potential to strengthen the shipping industry in Sri
Lanka and that would have many advantages. Even before Sri Lanka gained
independence, Colombo Dockyard PLC (CDPLC) won an important position in
shipping activities. The Port of Colombo was the fifth largest port
during British rule and the seventh largest in the world during British
Colonial times, said the Managing Director/CEO, Colombo Dockyard PLC,
Mangala P.B. Yapa.
Q: How does CDPLC help bring in
foreign exchange to the country?
Managing Director/CEO Mangala P.B. Yapa. Picture by
A: Since the Colombo Port
handled a larger volume of cargo, the British had an interest in
developing the Port of Colombo. Therefore, they decided to develop
repair facilities in Colombo in 1897.
They invested 318,000 sterling pounds on a graving yard in Colombo
and the Colombo Dockyard came into being. In 1974 the Government set up
a separate company called Colombo Dockyard Limited to cater to local
ship building and ship repairing requirements. Soon after the setting up
of the Colombo Dockyard we realised that it should cater to the
international market and soon attracted foreign equities in 1975, he
CDPLC brings foreign exchange to the country by providing repair and
maintenance services to international fleets. The CDPLC has been
building guards-ships since 2004 and we save most of the foreign
exchange otherwise spent for military purposes.
CDPLC catered to the requirements of the Sri Lanka Navy as well as
the Ports Authority. Hence we not only earn foreign exchange on direct
exports of our services and products but also save foreign exchange by
meeting the requirements of the vessels to Sri Lanka.
Q: How does the CDPLC help in the
development of the country?
A: It helps development in a significant way. The country has
to choose its economic path for development. Tourism, traditional
agriculture and plantations were the paths chosen as the economy of Sri
Lanka and various changes were made to develop the economy after
independence. Industries mainly looking at self-sufficiency were set up
as the policy for development. Corporations were set up to cater to the
industrial requirements of the country.
The CDPLC was also set up for the same purpose. Compared to the
corporations that came into being in an era of self-sufficiency, CDPLC
was unique in that it survived whereas the others collapsed. It was due
to the fact that the structure of the CDPLC was slightly different to
others. It became one of the first Government companies. We harnessed
all resources to repair and build ships at the CDPLC. The nature of this
industry was not only to develop infrastructure but also human
Hence CDPLC has trained its employees to develop their skills.
Secondly, in terms of import substitution, we played a great role in
that since CDPLC was set up hardly any ships were imported to Sri Lanka.
The company met Sri Lanka’s requirements - capacity wise as well. The
foreign revenue CDPLC earns is reinvested for the betterment of the
Q: How does CDPLC survive during
A: Any organisation must be ready to meet situations of this
nature since it operates in the international market. It is like
swimming in the ocean. If you are a weak swimmer the pressure of the
ocean waves will drown you. If you are a good swimmer you can swim with
the waves. Compared to other companies who seek opportunities. We looked
at it from a different perspective. We started preparing for a time of
recession during the good times.
Firstly, we looked at our business development strategies. We
prepared ourselves in terms of adopting new strategies focusing on
customers, quality, value addition and customer services. We decided to
internationalise our ship building activities in 2004 and secured a
large volume of jobs.
Mangala P.B. Yapa
School attended :Primary- Muththettuwegama Vidyalaya,
Badulla, Kandegedara Maha Vidyalaya, Badulla,
Secondary : Nalanda College, Colombo
Civil status : Married and has two children,
Professional qualifications :M.Sc (Eng.) Hons in Ship
Current profession : Managing Director and CEO of Colombo
Experience : One year’s experience as a teacher, 25
years’ experience in Colombo Dockyard PLC,
Sports : Watching cricket matches.
The CDPLC took steps to improve the internal infrastructure capacity
particularly during the past few years. We brought the latest technology
enhanced capacity and improved the latest equipment.
Moreover, we focused on human resources development. Any industry
cannot survive for long without developing its human resources. Hence,
we adopted a strategy of bringing everyone together as a team with
transparency, loyalty and a sense of sharing. Therefore, nobody lost his
or her job at the time of recession. We have strengthened ourselves to
face the downturn and keep afloat.
Q: What was the growth of the
A: There was significant growth in the industry. We achieved
18-20 percent growth annually. Compared to the first quarter of 2008 and
2009 there is significant growth now. The first six months of 2009 have
been very effective and our profits have increased in certain areas and
we want to improve our productivity to achieve good results.
Q: Do you have any plans to expand
your services to other parts of the country?
A: Expansion in services can take place in different ways. The
expansion of the Colombo Dockyard would be taken into consideration.
CDPLC is exploring all opportunities. Since the investments on this
industry are high, one cannot set up a Dockyard easily.
We have opportunities to work on the idea of expansion with the
construction of the Hambantota Port, Colombo South Port and Trincomalee
Port. Prior to that, we want to enhance our capacity. We want to work on
the concept of triple Ps’.
That is changing people, change the process and then change the
product. Finally one can receive the fourth P which is profit.
Q: What is your advice to young
people who attempt to climb the corporate ladder?
A: Believe in yourself and have a broad and open mind. One
should be positive of what one does and hard work is important. One
should work to the best of one’s ability with commitment.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: Our future plan is to be the leading dockyard in the
Q: How do you spend your leisure?
A: I sleep whenever I am free. I like to spend time with my
family members. I also like travelling and reading books.