A little more than two and a half years ago, when we commenced the main construction work of the phase I, the construction site was nothing more than the former saltern and the project was scheduled to be completed by 15 April 2011.
However, due to the hard work and dedication of the SLPA management headed by its dynamic Chairman, the project culminated ahead of schedule, and the newly constructed l7m-deep inland harbour basin began to embrace her first inflow of waters on 15 August this year.
The important feature of the construction work was that as the port was built inland, we could quite easily excavate the dry soil without the assistance of the breakwater and paved the way for the sea water to come in later on.
The finishing of phase 1 in such a short period of just over two-and-a-half years is considered a great engineering feat in the global port construction sphere. And today, the first vessel will be touching the port’s waters.
The Port of Hambantota has been planned in such a way that initially it functions as a Service and an Industrial Port handling conventional cargo vessels, i.e. bulk/break bulk and subsequently will be developed to handle container transshipment, depending upon the growth of container volumes in the sub continent in the future.
Therefore our main focus initially is the provision of ancillary services to ships, handling general cargo and generation of entrepot businesses and other port-related industries in and around Hambantota.
In October 2009 we laid the foundation to construct a fully-fledged Bunkering Facility and a Tank Farm in the Port of Hambantota which consists of 14 tanks having a total storage capacity of 80,000 cubic meters of product oil at a cost of US$ 76 million. And almost 50% of its work has now been completed. Around 200-250 ships sail daily close to Hambantota and our target is to attract at least one-sixth of the fleet for refuelling at competitive prices.
It is a well-known truth in the shipping and logistics industry that speed is the decisive factor in competitive business. For a shipping line, diverting a ship affects the company’s bottom-line and the business decisions to call a port or bypass it revolves round such costs.
Port of Hambantota, which revives the historic silk route used by Arabs to explore Asia, is located 10 nautical miles off the world’s busiest east-west shipping lane. Hambantota is ideally situated at the intersection of major international sea trading routes.
This apart, there are enough land resources around Hambantota to be used as hinterland for port related activities and this could attract many logistics-related services into the area to service the maritime sector. Initially, over 2,000 hectares of land will be made available for logistics and free zone activities around Port of Hambantota which is well-connected with the newly-built Southern Highway, the railway lines and the Mattala Airport.
The Port of Hambantota is gearing up to embrace a massive investment plan worth billions of rupees and the Cabinet Appointed Negotiating Committee has already called for proposals for Public Private Partnerships for a host of business ventures and by now 27 investors have expressed their interest for investment.
With these ventures, the infrastructure and other facilities in and around Hambantota will be improved and the resulting boom in the shipping industry with the construction of the port will be able to play a pivotal role towards the economic development of Sri Lanka.
We have already signed an MOU for the second phase of the Hambantota Port project, the construction of which is scheduled to commence during this year at a cost of US$ 800 million. The second phase will be completed within three years and once the whole project, as per the master plan, is completed, will provide berthing facilities for over 30 ships, making it the biggest port in South Asia.
Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) Managing Director Capt. Nihal Keppetipola yesterday declared that the Hambantota Port that will be commissioned by President Mahinda Rajapaksa today will harness the country’s locational advantage to the fullest potential. He described the commissioning of the Hambantota Port, also known as Magampura Port, as miraculous and noted it was constructed in line with the crusade of making Sri Lanka the Miracle of Asia to the nation by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
He said the landmark achievement comes after the glorious victory of the century – the eradication of the scourge of terrorism which had overwhelmed the entire country for almost 30 years. “This auspicious time on this 18th day of November 2010, at which the port is dedicated to the everlasting heritage of our motherland by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, will be written in the annals of Sri Lankan port history in golden letters,” Capt. Keppetipola said.
Following are excerpts from the SLPA Managing Director’s special message to mark the opening of the Magampura Port: