COLOMBO DOCKYARD CELEBRATES FORTY YEARS OF EXCELLENCE, Ship Repairers, Ship builders and Heavy Engineers.

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Colombo Dockyard Celebrates forty years of excellence

Colombo Dockyard established in 1974 August 1, with the prime objective of providing ship repair facilities to the local industry requirements. The shipyard had evolved over the last for decades from a small time repair work shop to a full service ship repair facility acclaimed as an International shipyard competing with the best in the world. In addition to attending to Ship repair work, the Shipyard was also entrusted with the responsibility of building small patrol boats to the Sri Lanka Navy and Work Boats for the ports that were in operation during the early era.

The ship repair sector has been the driving sector that has been driving the shipyard to greater heights over past decades, across recessions 1990’s, 2008-13 and boom periods 1980’s, 2004-7. The Shipbuilding sector has been the driving force of the technological development of the Shipyard through the acquisition of the skills and knowledge necessary to build highly sophisticated Offshore Support Vessels for the Oil and Gas exploration and production domain.


In the early days when the facility had been in its infant stages – the workforce numbers were small and the Colombo Dockyard team’s dynamism managed to nurture this operation to handle many challenging repair projects, gaining a reputation even in those early days from international callers, especially Greek, Indian, Pakistan and Russian. Many foreign vessels were Greek trampers and Russian research vessels and tugs that were accommodated in Drydock 1,2 and 3. The local fleet owned by Ceylon Shipping Corporation (CSC) was regular callers patronizing Colombo as their home port.

This was the formative decade of the shipyard, which was given guidance by astute visionary leaders, who had identified the potential of Colombo Dockyard even at these initial stages.
Boatbuilding was done in small scale, building small and less complex boats to meet the local requirements of the Sri Lanka Navy namely 14 m Patrol Boats, 20 m Patrol Boats and 40 m Offshore Patrol Vessels and Towing Tugs, Barges, Launches for the Sri Lanka Ports Authorit


This decade had been where many historical milestones were reached, the 125,000 DWT drydock was commissioned (1988) the first Tanker was secured for Dock No. 04 (MT. Arun Khetarpal owned by Shipping Corporation of India. The land mark repair project of collision damage repairs to MT. Palanimalai (Also owned by Shipping Corporation of India) was successfully completed with 25 days, where 100 Tons of steel was renewed in record time, gaining commendation from the owners.

During this decade vessels handled varied from Tankers, Cattle carriers, French Naval vessels, General Cargo vessels to Bulk Carriers. Unique vessels we had handled during this era are French naval vessel Jules Vern, MV. Dulos (Library Ship) and MV. Mukairish Al Sades (Cattle Carrier).

The Shipbuilding activity too grew gradually with the experience gained and started exporting boats to Maldives and Republic of Burma. Shipbuilding also augmented its activities by gaining aluminium boat building technology to build fast patrol boats for the Sri Lanka Navy.

The turning point for the shipyard from government owned to a fully privatized facility with majority stake holding by Onomichi Dockyard Co. Ltd, Japan came during the year 1993.


This was the decade which transformed the facility to a truly international shipyard, with the influence of the Japanese Management. Accreditation to ISO 9001: 2000 quality certification by Lloyds Register Quality Assurance, UK was a significant milestone achieved during this era.

The repair sector was performing majority of the tanker repairs in Drydock No. 04, where in some years we had carried out drydocking of 12-14 tankers annually. This era also marked the first Offshore Drill unit repairs MODU. Sagar Vijay, major layup repairs we had carried out successfully.

Shipbuilding progressed well with majority of the aluminium fast patrol boat requirement of the Sri Lanka Navy which formed the backbone of the fleet being supplied by Colombo Dockyard. In addition, with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority’s modernization of the Colombo Port, building of highly complex Harbour Berthing Tugs was entrusted to Colombo Dockyard, which was successfully carried out.

As socially responsible corporate from the start, special focus on yard safety practices were given high priority during this decade. This also helped the company to take on mega projects in the marine sector as well as land based, such as the construction of the LPG storage Terminal for Shell in Muthurajawela.


This decade had a mixed effect on the repair industry, as the shipping market peaked to highest levels in the history (2007/8) and subsequent historic economic crash.

The tanker fleet which had been shipyards core business generator had been phased out, due to IMO regulations coming into force for double hulled tankers (2010). As a result multiple drydocking of various types of smaller vessels were the common feature for Dock No. 04 (125,000 DWT) in recent years.

This decade can be considered as one of the most important eras of the shipyard, where the leanings from the ship repair / Offshore Engineering sector on highly sophisticated and challenging projects were handled, such as retrofit repairs to ORV. Sagar Kanya (2006) and retrofit repairs to Floating Dock FDN -1 (2005).

The experience and the confidence gained from successfully handling these projects, laid the foundation and paved the way for the shipyard to venture aggressively into international shipbuilding projects focusing the offshore industry. This was a significant turning point in the history of the shipyard, from a small player to a truly international ship repair and building facility, which is now recognized by the market as a serious contender. Since the Shipyard stepped in to the Offshore sector in 2005, there has not been turning back as the Shipyard’s market position has grown from strength to strength and has been able to carve out a position as a reputable Offshore Support Vessel building yard. These Offshore Support Vessels are in operation in oil exploration hot spots such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, Russia, India, Africa, Singapore etc… In addition, the shipyard has also been successful in building passenger vessels. During this period, we have built 250 Passenger cum 100 Ton Cargo Vessels and 400 Passenger cum 250 Ton Cargo Vessels for the Government of India, which amply demonstrate the credibility the shipyard has achieved internationally.

In the year 2008-9 the Ship Repair sector recorded the highest revenue volume in the history of the shipyard, even though global economic crash and the shipping industry recession experienced in 2008.

End to the war situation in the country in May 2009, had been a great relief to all business ventures in the country, especially in the shipping sector. The negative aspects such as high war risk premium for vessels calling Colombo had been gradually lifted creating a level playing field for all players. The positive image of Sri Lanka on all fronts also had played a key role in helping to attract high end ship owners to Colombo.

Colombo had developed its reputation as a hub for Offshore Support Vessel Repairs during this period, where many of the offshore support vessels from Bourbon Offshore, France, Tidewater-USA, ONGC, SCI and Great Offshore, India. Resulting in the yard repair teams gained a wealth of experience into this high end offshore sector projects.

Colombo Dockyard’s services and capacity were recognized by global ship owners and managers. Securing of the Frame Agreements with Bernhard Schulte Ship Management (HK) and AP Moller Maersk for repairs to their fleets was established. This is a proud achievement Colombo Dockyard, competing head to head with bigger shipyards located across the globe.

Competition has increased in giant leaps, with many new facilities starting operations regionally as well as internationally such as in Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering Company Limited, Gujarat, L&T Shipbuilding, Katupalli – Tamil Nadu, Sembmarine Kakinada, Chowgule and Company Private Ltd. (Shipbuilding), Goa. International yards: Oman Shipyards (Duqm) and Nakilat Damen Shipyards Qatar along with the many Chinese yards also intensified the competition.


The tight market conditions over the past few years look to be continuing for at least the next year/s as well. We have managed to survive one of the longest recessions in the shipping history up to now. Collectively as one team we have to work to increase the productivity and reducing the cost. As such we compete with the regional shipyards that have come up in numbers over the past decade.

The fleet size changes on account of the industry regulatory requirements, such as the double hulled tankers phasing out of the single hulls, which created a market driven change in the fleet size. The double hulled vessels were beamier and many of the bigger tankers cannot be accommodated in our Drydock No. 04. (125,000 DWT)

The type and the size of vessels available in the regional market have changed from larger tankers to smaller container carriers, bulk carriers, general cargo carriers, dredger to offshore support vessels. This change in the vessel mix had resulted in Drydock No. 04 (125,000 dwt) planning many multiple drydockings with average 2-3 vessels per drydocking.

Systems integration and streamlining of the processors has been successfully achieved by introducing Integrated Commercial and Production Module (ICPM). Streamlining the processors and providing accurate information, where it is needed for decision making. This task has been achieved by our in house IT team creating a customised unique system to meet the shipyards operational requirements. These are some of the successful initiatives that have been carried out during the recession period to gain better control of the projects and minimizing the costs across the production process.

The Shipbuilding sector too faces similar challenges as we compete against international shipyards during these trying times. For the future, we are aggressively marketing to secure vessels in the Offshore, Passenger, Harbour and Naval segments from the existing markets as well as new geographical markets. The Shipyard’s focus is to serve the niches in the Shipbuilding arena with greater focus on higher end, technologically complex vessels.

The herculean task of facing the market challenges and guiding the shipyard to a stronger position is in secure hands of industry veterans Mr. Akihiko Nakauchi, Chairman and Mr. Ranil Wijegunawardena, MD and CEO.

The formula for success of this unique engineering establishment, boils down to true commitment and drive in pursuit of excellence from all involved, starting from the pioneering group in the early 70’s to all the teams that have successfully carried the batten, have contributed in numerous ways, from innovative engineering ideas to pure sweat, to maneuver Colombo Dockyard’s journey safely across the annals of time.

This journey, hand in hand with its majority stake holder (since 1993 March) Onomichi Dockyard Co. Ltd., Japan, have been exciting and eventful, creating much needed employment in the engineering sector. Thus contributing as much as two percent of the Sri Lanka’s total export revenue in recent times has been instrumental in spearheading the frontiers of Sri Lankan industrialization beyond our shores to international markets.

To mark this significant milestone, religious events have been planned on the 1st and 2nd of August 2014 to evoke blessings on the employees and pioneering teams. On the 1st August at 5.00 PM a ‘Pahan Pooja” has been organized at the Deepaduththaramya Temple, Kotahena. On the 2nd of August at 08 AM a special service has been organized at the St. Andrews church, Modera.

The odyssey of excellence continues.