Japanese grant to strengthen facilities at BIA & Colombo Port

(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – With almost 1.5 million visitor arrivals and 7.5 million passenger turnovers recorded in 2023, Sri Lanka is on its way to recovery, stability, and growth after the Easter Sunday attacks, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the devastating economic crisis in 2022.

As cross-border travel is expected to rise rapidly in the coming months, preparedness of Points of Entry (PoE) to Sri Lanka to operate without any closure has become a national priority than ever before.

In this hopeful setting, the Government of Japan, a longstanding development partner to the people of Sri Lanka, has provided a grant of USD 8.4 million through the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to strengthen PoE facilities in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

The grant component for Sri Lanka aims to strengthen capacities at Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) and the Colombo Port – vital gateways to Sri Lanka, to be future-ready for responding to any public health emergencies such as pandemics and infectious diseases. The event for handing over the first part of the donation took place on 10th April 2024 at Bandaranaike International Airport. (BIA)

Under this initiative, BIA and Colombo Port are set to receive cutting-edge equipment and facilities, including advanced baggage scanners, full body scanners, Automated Border Control (ABC) gates equipped with a Face Recognition System (AFRS), full-page e-passport scanners, and biometric-based access control systems. Additionally, the project renovates approximately 150 washrooms at BIA with sensor-operated, touchless equipment providing hygienic benefits for passengers, crew, and staff.

At the event, the Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka, – Mr. Mizukoshi Hideaki stated “I am proud to reaffirm Japan’s unwavering commitment to the recovery, growth, and development of Sri Lanka. Our support extends particularly to the enhancement of PoE, with a special focus on BIA and Colombo Port. Through this initiative, Japan aims to fortify PoE capabilities, ensuring seamless management of future emergencies, especially during pandemics.”

In addition, the project will provide much-needed medical equipment, and renovate and equip the isolation room at BIA in line with International Health Regulations (IHR), alongside enhancements to both BIA and Colombo Port waste disposal capabilities.

A four-story office building will be constructed for the Port Health Service at Colombo Port and 25 Sri Lankan Diplomatic Missions will receive biometric enrollment workstations enabling linking up with the Department of Immigration and Emigration to speed up passport issuance for Sri Lankans living overseas. For a greater outcome, the project will provide comprehensive training and staff capacity building to strengthen border health compliance in line with international standards enabling swift response to public health emergencies.

Commenting on the timely initiative, Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation, Nimal Siripala De Silva,  at the ceremony  stated  “I am immensely grateful for the generous financial support given by the Government of Japan and IOM Sri Lanka for this important initiative which will significantly bolster health preparedness at Sri Lanka’s main Airport and the Colombo Port, in consonance with International Health Regulations, and in turn garner public confidence for uninterrupted, safe, and secure cross-border operations benefitting passengers, crew, and staff.”

This project is implemented by IOM under the guidance of the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Aviation in close coordination with the Airport & Aviation Services Sri Lanka Limited (AASL), Sri Lanka Ports Authority, the Department of Immigration and Emigration, and the Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs.

Commenting on the occasion, the Chief of Mission of the International Organization for Migration for Sri Lanka & the Maldives, Mr. Sarat Dash stated that “IOM strongly believes that strengthening the PoE is an investment for the future. The focus of the project extends beyond physical infrastructure and encompasses efforts for the economy, security, and digital landscape. IOM feels privileged to be a part of this project of national significance and is grateful for the support extended by all stakeholders for its successful implementation.”

The project intervention will reduce physical contact points, waiting time and congestion at points of entry for efficient, secure, and safe operations at BIA and Colombo Port. It will further improve traveller confidence, driving the potential for a boost in tourism and business travel offering an opportunity for mobility to return to pre-pandemic levels and adapt to the post-pandemic reality.

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