Archive | January, 2012

Aitken Spence Plantations making a difference in the Plantation sector

26 Jan

At Elpitiya Plantations PLC, sustainability is a part of everyday business. Elpitiya Plantations PLC ensures the sustainable development of our plantation by focusing their efforts on four main areas that encompass this – environmental sustainability, social welfare, early childhood development and infrastructure development.

Environmental sustainability

Elpitiya employs targeted interventions to minimize damage to the environment. One of their major focuses in this particular area is the increasing of the bio diversity of the plantation and thereby the conservation of the environment of the estates.

Aitken Spence Plantations adopts a variety of methods to reduce any soil pollution caused through the use of artificial fertilisers. One such method is site-specific fertilizing which provide only the required nutrients without excessive or blanket use of chemicals. In addition certain select plots also use organic fertilisers in a gradual move to replace chemicals, aiming towards sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural practices. Compost pits are also maintained in the estates with the ambitious goal of eventually being able to replace one round of artificial fertilizers.

Aitken Spence Plantations through Elpitiya Plantations owns and manages a diversified portfolio of crops which includes tea, rubber, oil palm, and cinnamon. However, they are moving away from a monoculture system and are trying to increases the bio-diversity of the estates by implementing a polyculture method of agriculture. A polyculture method is one in which a diverse range of crops are planted in the estates instead of just the one crop (i.e. tea) which drastically reduces the spread of disease and resource depletion.

This would ensure environmental conservation and is a key part of achieving their goal of long term sustainability.

Social sustainability and child development

Elpitiya estates employ 8000 individuals who live and work on the 13 estates under their purview.  At EPP, they ensure that several initiatives are in place to improve the working and living conditions of the staff and their communities.

In light of this, Elpitiya provides health facilities including pre-natal and antenatal clinics on all their estates that also offer free vaccinations and regular medical check-ups. Each of our estates has a medical officer who is responsible for making sure that these programmes function regularly and effectively. In addition, the plantations sector has also made four ambulances available to increase the speed and efficiency with which patients needing hospital treatment can be transported from the estates.

As well as providing treatment and care, Elpitiya Plantations also regularly hosts seminars for the workforce to create awareness and preventative methods for alcoholism, HIV/AIDS & other sexually transmitted diseases among others, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka and Plantation Human Development Trust. Skills development and prevention of alcoholism programmes were conducted for the members of Quality Circles as well as for utilizing the funds granted by the Project for Development Planning aimed at prevention of absenteeism in the plantations.    

At Aitken Spence Plantations we make sure that the children in the estates get every opportunity to reach their potential. To this effect we regularly carry out a series of activities aimed at improving the literacy of estate workers’ children. We have Child Development Centres (similar to day care facilities) in all estates. Last year, a total of Rs. 24 Million was spent to maintain the crèche facilities in all estates. Of course it is always nice to receive positive reinforcement and we were thrilled when our Gulugahakande Child Development Centre was placed first at the all island child development centre competition organized by PHDT, beating 430 other estates.

In addition, Elpitiya Plantations in association with the Merrill J. Fernando Charitable Foundation provides educational scholarships to children of estate workers. This includes scholarships to students who have been accepted to university and students who have performed well at their GCE Ordinary Level examinations. Last year, three students qualified to receive scholarships to continue their studies from GCE Ordinary Level to Advanced Level and those qualified to enter university for higher studies were granted scholarships of Rs. 1500 monthly for three years. Currently, there are twenty scholarship recipients.

The secretaries of Aitken Spence with support from the entire group, led by Mrs. Daisy Kunanandham in their special annual project, donated educational and health care utensils for the children of Dunsinane, Sheen, Fernlands and Meddacombra estates. Over 1600 students benefited from these activities.

Sustainability through Infrastructure Development

We collaborated with the Ministry of Livestock & Rural Community Development in a special project to concrete roads in the Nuwara Eliya region. The full length of the roads developed in the Dunsinane, Fernlands and Sheen estates were 32 km at an approximate cost of Rs. 43.5 Million.

In addition, EPP has spent a total of Rs. 55.3 million on developing field rest rooms, water schemes, playgrounds, places of worship, social development centres, re-roofing and rehabilitating internal roads.



Aitken Spence Exits CICT

26 Jan

Aitken Spence has announced that they have finalized the formalities of their sale of the 30 % shareholding in CICT to China Merchants Holdings (international) company Limited (CMHI) their joint venture partner.

The Sale was on normal commercial terms which have been determined through arms length negotiations between the parties. The directors consider the sale is in the best interest of the company and their shareholders.

Aitken Spence is very pleased that having attracted CMHI to partner with them as the sole bidder for the development and operation of the Colombo South Terminal the Project has now commenced which is in the greater interest of the country.

Aitken Spence PLC will realize a capital gain of approximately Rs. 630 million on the sale of these shares.

(As disclosed to the Colombo Stock Exchange on the 26th of January 2012)

Disclosure to CSE

23 Jan

Leading the drive for efficiency -one LED at a time!

23 Jan

Today the Aitken Spence family is yet again at the forefront of innovation with their move to green their office spaces by making them more efficient and environmentally friendly. Some of the methods used are state-of-the-art, while others are just plain common sense.
Sampath Godavitharana, Mechanical Engineer who worked on the installation of Building Management Systems (BMS) in the Aitken Spence Tower II at Vauxhall Street, spoke about some of the changes they implemented and how it has helped increase energy efficiency.
“We have installed a Building Management System atthe Aitken Spence Tower II , through which our general energy and resource consumption is monitored and controlled for optimum savings and minimal environmental impact. The BMS, as we call it, is a system that has integrated most of the facility areas like chillers, generators, water management systems, road systems, as well as a portion of the lighting system.
The cooling system itself is a revolutionarily simple method;three years ago we installed three chilled water systems of different capacities to cool the insides of the building as well as to reduce the temperature of the output from the building. BMS is able to regulate the temperature by identifying the load in the building or the floor at the moment, it then regulates airflow – so if there are five people on the office floor, then the load on the cooling system is less than if there were ten –essentially switching between higher and lower capacity chilling systems depending on the load at any one point – so there is never an ‘over cooling’ effect. BMS therefore acts as a regulatory watch dog on energy consumption and thanks to that we have consumed almost 20% less energy!”
“In addition to the cooling system, BMS also regulates water consumption in the building. The water we consume is held in overhead tanks located on the rooftops, and in underground rain water collection tanks. BMS is able to keep an eye on water levels and regulate the refilling process without any human interaction. This saves many man hours on what could potentially be a very difficult job – and also ensure that the building is never out of water. While there may not be a direct cost benefit from this, there is definitely an operational benefit.
Similarly the BMS system is able to monitor our generator systems. While there are many different generators located in various sections of the building, through BMS our engineers are able to check on the important parameters such as battery voltage and oil levels in one location and target interventions accordingly – making it infinitely more efficient than using precious man hours to do regular check-ups on the generators around the building.”
With regard to lighting, in addition to using highly efficient LED lights in the main lobby and service lobby, Sampath mentioned the use of a perimeter lighting system or PEBA, where the artificial light regulates according to the available natural light. For instance if there is a lot of natural light in the room then the artificial lights would be dimmed and vice versa. On account of the “intelligent lighting system used, theoretically there could be a larger conservation of energy because of the minimal electricity consumption. However he mentioned that despite the obvious benefits of using the perimeter lighting system, currently it isn’t yielding the benefits that it ought to because many offices have used solid blindsto cut out the glare that is coming in through the windows. While they have been instructed to use the vertical blinds which can be angled in such a way to prevent the glare, there are still some occupants that haven’t switched to this option.”
Overall, the Aitken Spence family is well on its way to being more efficient and environmentally friendly as a result of the practical approach used to regulate over-consumption of resources; it is a unique and commendable achievement. To further reap the benefits of the high-tech systems installed, Sampath suggests following these guidelines to help make Aitken Spence Towers in Vauxhall Streeteven more efficient and environmentally friendly!
 Use the PEBA system to its full potential by using natural light as much as possible, for example in the lobbies and washrooms where an abundance of natural light reduces the need to turn the LED lights on. The washrooms in particular are equipped with occupancy sensors – if there isn’t enough natural light it will turn the artificial lights on as soon as someone walks in. Vertical blinds to angle the glare away from your workspace should also be fitted.
 Use the hibernation option on computers – if you are not working on it, it will automatically go in to sleep mode and use minimal energy
 Turn off photocopiers when not in use as it saves significant amounts of energy. Turn off water dispensers after work – and switch offthe heating option if it isn’t necessary.

Mike Thornton – Chairman, Aitken Spence 1957-63

18 Jan

Former Chairman of Aitken Spence& Co, Mr. Mike Thornton (90) passed away on 20th July, in Bramley, Surrey, United Kindom. His wife Ruth, and children Luke, Chris and Rachel survive him.

Mr. Thornton joined Aitken Spence in 1946,following the end of the Second World War. His beginnings were in the Company’s shipping department, butMr. Thornton climbed the ranks in the space of just 8 years and was appointed Director of Aitken Spence & Co in 1954. He was known to describe those early years as “…a great life, working hard, booking freight, visiting ships in the harbour, playing golf and hockey and having plenty of parties.”

He later succeeded Mr. Reg Gaddum as Chairman of the Company, after the latter’s sudden death in 1957. He continued in his position as Chairman until his permanent departure back home to England in 1963.

‘The selection and encouragement of a number of young men from the three leading schools of the time – Royal College, Trinity College and St. Thomas’ College – to create a tier of embryo managers; the development of the Company’sisland wide resources, such as bringing the printing and carton-making departments from Galle to Colombo and starting a shipping office in Trincomalee for tea exports are some of the greatest achievements Mr. Thornton counted as his own, during the time he was at the Company’s helm.

Although he spent the latter part of his years in England, Mr. Thornton often returned to his country of birth, Ceylon. Born in 1920, he spent his first 7 years at the Amherst tea estate in Udapussellawa. He left for England at the age of 8 to pursue his education but returned to Sri Lanka in 1939, as a young man of 18, to learnabout tea planting from his father, before becoming assistant superintendent of a tea estate for a short time.

He soon left the country again to join the Indian Armoured Corps to fulfil his obligations to England during World War II. Having commanded a squadron of armoured cars at the age of 23, a young Thornton came back to Colombo to find being an assistant estate superintendant simply not enough of a challenge after what he had been through. He also found his Tamil, which was the single language spoken on the estate, rather rusty after speaking Urdu for over 4 years. Therefore, with a little help from his father he got the job at the Aitken Spence Shipping Department.

In 1949, Mr. Thornton married Ruth, daughter of another tea planter Norman Bostock. Ruth’s brother, Mark, resided in Ceylon for many years and went onto became Chairman of John Keells. In the same year, Mike Thornton won the Ceylon Open Golf Championship, a title he also won in 1959 and 1960. A skilful administrator, Mr. Thornton was invited to chair the Royal Colombo Golf Club of Colombo as Captain in 1961. Mr. Thornton’s golfing pedigree came from his mother, who was Ceylon Ladies’ Golf Champion seven times.

The Thorntons’ decided to leave Sri Lanka for good and return to England in 1963 following the birth of their third child;their eldest Luke was 8. However they greatly valued their Ceylonese roots, and counted many Ceylonese amongst their closest friends. Mike Thorntoncontinued to maintain a connection withthis country, which he held dear to him till the very end of his life.