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Govt. gets aggressive on ports as pivot


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By Nisthar Cassim

Hot on the heels of concluding the landmark revamp of Hambantota Port, the Government is unleashing a slew of initiatives to develop the rest of the Ports in the country as a pivot to strengthen the island’s hub status and boost the economy. 

As per measures already approved, multiple Ports in the country will see over $ 200 million in immediate investment, with more likely if plans go well.

Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told the Daily FT that plans are underway to further expand facilities in the Colombo Port, apart from new measures to maximise the potential of the Ports of Trincomalee and Galle, as well as revive prospects for Kankesanthurai and Oluvil. 

In a bid to improve the competitiveness of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority’s (SLPA) flagship Jaya Container Terminal (JCT), a fifth facility will be added to the existing offering of four JCTs. 

Cabinet has approved the launch of JCT 5 with a wider quay and modern equipment, with an investment of $70 million. The SLPA’s deep-water East Container Terminal (ECT) will be operationalised with a $100 million investment, though initially a leasing of machinery and equipment is being explored as an option to fast-track.

The Cabinet has also approved for calling for Expressions of Interest for the Colombo West Port, as well as approving the feasibility study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for a Colombo North Port.

“To better serve the growing demand for Colombo we need to enhance capacity as well as efficiency,” Minister Samarasinghe told the Daily FT in an interview. 

The Minister said during the first 5 months of 2018, transshipment volumes in the port of Colombo had increased by 19% with SLPA JCT’s growing by 20%.

Colombo is the 13th best connected port in the world, and ranked as the 23rd largest container port in the world, having handled 6.2 million TEUs last year. 

Additionally, EOIs have been called for the development of a state of the art passenger terminal, in the Port of Colombo, to cater to the growing arrival of cruise tourists. He said several cruises are bypassing Colombo due to lack of improved infrastructure. Tenders have been called for the setting up of a Marina in Galle Port, which too will boost high-end tourism.

For Trincomalee, the master plan submitted by Singapore’s Surbana Jurong, including the setting up of an industrial zone is being studied. 

Minister Samarasinghe said the Government is keen to resuscitate the $50 million spent on Oluvil Port, set up with Danish assistance. “The Port has had issues with sand accumulating as well as facing sea erosion. The Cabinet has agreed on a two-pronged strategy - undertake capital dredging with a Euro 15 million assistance from Denmark at a concessionary rate, and purchase a small dredger for SLPA as a permanent solution, to carry out dredging as and when necessary in the future. We have called for EOIs for investment opportunities within the Oluvil harbour followed by RFPs. A solution has been found to the land compensation issue as well. SLPA will provide alternative land for those whose original land was acquired,” the Minister said. 

Given these breakthroughs, Samarasinghe expressed confidence that Oluvil port can be operationalised and aim for commercial viability. For the Kankesanthurai port, Cabinet has approved for a soft loan worth $45 million from India to reactivate it. Minister Samarasinghe said that a national shipping policy is being prepared in consultation with industry stakeholders and once finalised will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval. 


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