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Marine industry contributes to Tsunami recovery

By Sue Richards last modified Jan 08, 2009 07:40 PM

Published: 2009-01-08 19:40:14
Countries: Sri Lanka

As reported today – Wednesday 31 December 2008 – on

The world was transfixed with images of the Boxing Day Tsunami (26 December 2004) and the devastation that laid bare the shores of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Thailand and surrounding islands. Now, experts from the global marine industry are lending their support, with practical and technical direction to nurture the fledgling boating sector in Sri Lanka.

It was the deadliest in history, claiming the lives, livelihoods and futures of many hundreds of thousands of people. Estimates put the death toll at around 300,000 and more than 1.3 million people were affected.

In the time that has passed since 2004, international aid has flowed in to help reconstruct the towns and infrastructure the people of the region will need to lift themselves back to any state of normalcy.

Pierre Pringiers, the former Belgium Ambassador to Sri Lanka is heading the mission to develop the marine attributes of this island culture. Australian, Joe Goddard, whose international consultancy, GoMarine has worked on massive projects around the world, reports he has put his hand up to contribute to marina design.

“I have offered my expertise to the development of the water based activities and some basic marina designing. I will help them develop Standard Operating Procedures and do some business planning for them to build their boating industry. This is my way of giving back to the marine industry.”

Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is based on its culture, ancient landmarks and its waterways. While Sri Lanka is an island, the yachting industry is virtually nonexistent and promotion of water based leisure activities is only in its infancy – at this stage including surfing, rafting and canoeing on inland streams like the Kelani river in Kitulgala, and dinghies on inland waters like Bolgoda Lake.

Yet there is huge potential for this sector to bring added revenue and employment to Sri Lanka. What’s lacking is the skills, facilities and know-how.

BAF is acting as a catalyst and incubator to first introduce sea friendly industries such as sailing, boating and yachting to Sri Lanka. BAF has devised special training courses aimed at the development of the water based leisure sector. By introducing this concept to villagers, BAF hopes to generate employment for the local youth by providing the seeds for the growth of water based leisure and water sports in Sri Lanka.

Eventually, BAF will help young people organize themselves into small scale corporative societies or partnerships to provide the 3 activities, namely leisure sailing, leisure boat building, repairs and sail manufacturing on a commercial basis, forming a value chain in leisure boating. It’s envisioned that such leisure sailing companies could be set up to between Tangalle and Kalutara.

Then there’s the issue of infrastructure for mooring and boat handling, which will be the basis for the future yachting industry in Sri Lanka.

The first stage is bringing in the technology and ability to install fixed timber decked pontoons in the Mirissa harbour. For this phase BAF has joined a team of European experts in the training of 8 people (in construction, diving and underwater works), these young Sri Lankans have finished the training and are now specialized in this trade and will be regrouped under a new partnership named Mirissa Moorings.

Ideally the skills and equipment of Mirissa Moorings will also be used in other harbors for the benefit of the fishermen and for setting up other marina corners. A barge capable of putting up the pontoons has been fully funded by Deutsche Bank and is currently in the process of being refurbished and reassembled by the electrical/mechanical engineering trainees. The pontoons will create about 40 moorings spaces in the harbor.

The setting up of infrastructure and the training provided for this industry is done by a “bottom up” approach meaning that the first beneficiaries will be the target group of youth, the heart and spirit of BAF. This is in contrast with the classic business approach top down where an investor would make such investments with the sole purpose of deriving a profit from such operation.

It is hoped that this first of its kind infrastructure and skills in Sri Lanka will stimulate:
• Others to come in and create other marinas
• Boat owners and charter fleet operators to consider Sri Lanka
• Boat builders to enter the field of yacht building
• New tourist attractions for Sri Lanka

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