Are yachts fighting shy of Galle port?
Mar 3, 2011

The authorized agents who supply services to cruise ships and also yachts that arrive in the Galle Port find themselves in a predicament due to the sharp decline in their arrivals due to the threat of Somali pirates and also the poor facilities on offer at the Galle Port.

The chandlers pointed out that the arrival of yachts during the tourist season had declined to a great degree this year when compared to previous years. Authorized agents help tourists arriving at the port by attending to their travel documents and providing other services. They pointed out that while the poor facilities and the threat of Somali pirates are deterrents to tourist arrivals at the port, the non-removal of restrictions imposed during the terrorist threat is another negative factor.

A shipping agent providing services to yachts, Dhananjaya Windsor said, “We coordinate with the Harbour Master and the Commanding Officer of the Navy when a yacht arrives and provide all information to them. Yachts can be berthed in the harbour only with the permission of the two officials. However the procedure involved results in long delays much to the annoyance of weary travelers waiting to get ashore.

Yachts are normally propelled by wind and a journey by yacht takes a long time. They are used only for pleasure purposes. However, there is no anchorage for yachts in the Galle port. After the tsunami, the Sri Lanka government promised to provide anchorage for yachts but the proposal did not materialize. We requested the government to relax the security regulations imposed during the war, but it has not yet been considered. The threat from Somali pirates is also very real. A family on board a yacht that left Galle Port in January was killed by Somali pirates. This year only about ten yachts have arrived.”

A tour guide from Magalla, Malan Jayasuriya said, “I have been functioning as an authorized tour guide for more than 35 years on a licence issued by the Tourist Board. A fee of 200US$ is levied by the government from every vessel that berths in a harbour. However, adequate facilities are not available to these visitors. After a long journey by sea yachts have to anchor outside the harbour for about two days. Tourists often complain about the squalid and dusty surroundings of the port and the lack of facilities. However, there is nothing that could be done in our capacity.”

Indika Udayakumara of Unawatuna said he took to tourism about 17 years ago as a tour guide. He said he was conversant in several foreign languages. “Most of the travellers in yachts are elderly people after retirement. However, the arrival of tourists in yachts has declined this year. Poor facilities in the port resulted in this situation. We are not allowed to board the yachts. A tourist wanted me to travel on board his yacht but port officials did not permit it. Later I left for Maldives by air and met the tourists. I travelled on board their yacht for more than three months calling at several ports in the world,” he said.

However, a senior official of the Galle Port said 115 yachts arrived last year and that it was a baseless allegation that the arrival of yachts had diminished due to poor facilities in the Galle Port. “We had a heavy influx of yachts last year and we even organized a yacht rally. Travel by yacht is just a hobby in European countries, and such adventurers are not wealthy tourists bringing in revenue to the country. We provide special facilities to passenger ships bringing wealthy tourists. The port is dusty due to the transport of cement. We would not receive an equivalent income from one cargo ship even from ten yachts. We actually provide services to yachts as a welfare facility and a gesture of goodwill,” he explained.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka