South Asia’s one-stop-shop for all things maritime
Sri Lanka is located on one of the great strategic shipping lanes of the world. Positioned on the key shipping route between the Malacca Straits and the Suez Canal, an estimated 36,000 ships pass its coastline each year. It was in this fortunate position that Master Divers was founded in 1978 by Mr Ariyaseela Wickramanayake. Starting out as an underwater project specialist in a marine services sector then dominated by companies from overseas, it stood out as the only operation 100% owned by Sri Lankans and training and employing only local talent.
Nearly 40 years on, Master Divers has grown to become the leading provider of all types of marine services not only in Sri Lanka, where it has been the prime mover in making the country independent in delivering marine services, but also across the wider region. 2015 sees it as one of the top five full service providers in the world, committed to delivering the support that its customers require, wherever it is needed.
In addition to its original diving services, the company has gained extensive experience and expertise in marine engineering, ship maintenance, harbour contracting and salvage. This rise to prominence has come through both organic growth and acquisitions such as that of the highly respected W.A.Tucker; a move that established it as Sri Lanka’s pioneering underwater project specialist.
The clients of Master Divers include many shipping agencies and owners, but it also works with other providers of marine infrastructure such as the Port of Dammam, in Saudi Arabia, which operates the world’s longest container terminal. Over the years, Master Divers has engaged in many other offshore and harbour-based marine projects and maritime construction work elsewhere, including in countries such as Thailand, the Maldives, India and Singapore.
One of the many ways that the company stands out from its competition is the quality of its equipment and the fact that it is the only such organisation in South Asia to operate its own fleet, made up of 15 vessels including eight tugboats, three barges and a 128 metre
container vessel. A number of the tugs have been built by Damen and purchased through Damen Trading, the brokerage arm of the group. Indeed, Master Divers was the first customer for Damen Trading in Asia back in 1982 and the relationship has continued to this day with all the vessels bought from Damen still in operation and maintained to the highest standards.
“They are very hardy, and good for another 20 or 30 years,” says founder and Chairman Mr Wickramanayake.
We have been partners with Damen for a long time now and we are very pleased with them and their vessels.
The Master Divers fleet and their crews can certainly expect a busy future. The company has global ambitions in its quest to be wherever its customers need it, while at the same time it continues to be a powerful force for ensuring that Sri Lanka continues to maximise the opportunities resulting from its strategic location. As well as being involved in the expansion of the port of the capital Columbo, Master Divers is also investing $100 million in a ship repair yard and logistics/transshipment hub in Hambantota, in the south of the island. This city has been designated as the site for a new international port to supplement Columbo’s capabilities.
With regional hubs Singapore and Dubai becoming increasingly congested, Mr Wickramanayake sees shipping companies looking for alternative ports able to meet all their requirements at a single point, and Sri Lanka is superbly positioned to fulfil that need. With its commitment to quality, technical capabilities and developing and maintaining a skilled local workforce, Master Divers may well be a critical player in bringing that about in the years to come.