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Government Gazette

‘All resources to build and repair ships harnessed’:

P.B. Yapa

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 Sumanachandra Ariyawansa

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 said.

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 resources.

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 company.

Q: How does CDPLC survive during economic recession?

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.


Name : 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 Building (Russia)
Current profession : Managing Director and CEO of Colombo Dockyard PLC,
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 industry?

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 region.

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.


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LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
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