Red Sea disruptions boost Colombo’s transhipment volumes


The Port of Colombo is experiencing a notable surge in transshipment volumes amid heightened cargo flows to and from the Middle East due to disruptions caused by the Red Sea crisis.

Red Sea disruptions boost Colombo's transhipment volumes
Port of Colombo

The Port of Colombo is experiencing a surge in transshipment volumes, up 30% year-to-date, attributed to heightened cargo flows to and from the Middle East, which were traditionally serviced by Asia-Europe lines via the Suez Canal before the Red Sea crisis.

The Sri Lanka Ports Authority said that in February, the Port of Colombo saw its transshipment volume growth accelerate for the third consecutive month, with a 29.1 percent year-on-year increase.

Transshipment volumes at the port reached 528,348 TEUs in February, continuing a streak of double-digit growth observed since December last year.

The diversion of ships around the Cape of Good Hope due to attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea has halved trade volumes that pass through the Suez Canal in the first two months of 2024.

While some smaller feeder services are still transiting the southern Red Sea, this is undertaken at considerable risk to the vessel crew.

The Port of Colombo still caps at 7 million TEUs amid insufficient handling capacity. The port handled 6.9 mteu in 2023 vs. Jebel Ali (14.5 mteu), Singapore (39 mteu), and Salalah (3.8 mteu).

According to Drewry, there are two major terminal developments underway in Colombo – Adani-led JV is constructing West Container Terminal and Sri Lanka Ports Authority is extending East Container Terminal. This will significantly increase the capability of the port to handle ULCVs and increase the port’s competitiveness for relay transshipment (i.e. deepsea to deepsea transfers).

The Red Sea crisis has not resulted in significant congestion at ports, Eleanor Hedland, Drewry’s Lead Analyst for Ports and Terminals, said in last week’s webinar, although there are some pre-berth waiting time increases above normal levels at Dammam and Jebel Ali.

“When the Red Sea routing becomes safe, then there will be a short period when ports in the affected markets see a clustering of calls, but unlike the pandemic the majority of ports are currently well placed to handle a short-term clustering of vessel arrivals. Also, we expect that both carriers and terminals will remember lessons learned during the pandemic and will be managing vessel schedules carefully to avoid yard congestion,” Hedland added.

Commenting on the impact of the crisis in the West Mediterranean, Hedland pointed out that West Mediterranean hubs, including Tanger Med and Sines, are strategically positioned to handle additional transshipment cargo to/from Central and East Mediterranean markets, as well as act as relay transshipment points i.e. transfer of extra-regional cargo between deepsea loops.

West Mediterranean gateways face longer transit times which may affect their competitive position vs. North European gateway ports (also facing longer transit times but generally offering higher service frequency).

You just read one of our articles for free

To continue reading, subscribe to WorldCargo News

By subscribing you will have:

  • Access to all regular and exclusive content
  • Discount on selected events
  • Full access to the entire digital archive
  • 10x per year Digital Magazine

SUBSCRIBE or, if you are already a member Log In


Having problems logging in? Call +31(0)10 280 1000 or send an email to