Sri Lanka’s maritime sector master plan, developed by Maritime and Transport Business Solutions (MTBS), a consultancy firm from the Netherlands, and funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is nearing completion, according to Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe.
“The report will be made available to us shortly, and I will share it with our stakeholders, who we are working together with as we speak, in developing the national policy on the maritime sector,” Samarasinghe said at the inaugural Port of Colombo Awards Night 2018 held this Monday in Colombo.
The minister said relevant stakeholders have been meeting with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), for the last six to eight months to finalise the policy document. He said with confidence that he would be taking the master plan to the Cabinet of Ministers shortly to win their approval to embark on a systematic and predictable way of operating, not only the Colombo port, but also all the other ports that come under SLPA.
Meanwhile, Samarasinghe said the East Container Terminal of the Colombo port will be operationalised by the SLPA shortly.
“We are losing money on not operationalising the East Container Terminal,” Samarasinghe stressed.
“We are not looking for a public private partnership (PPP) for the East Container Terminal. We have invested nearly US$ 100 million in building up the infrastructure for the East Container Terminal up to now. Now we need to only get the equipment to operationalise it and we want to do this in the shortest possible time.”
Samarasinghe also expressed his ministry’s interest to go for an international tender to procure the required equipment, and noted that they are looking at leasing equipment immediately so that the East Container Terminal can be made operational within the course of the next three to six months.
Currently, the Chinese-operated Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) remains as the only deep water harbour facility at the Colombo port.
Also, Samarasinghe revealed the ministry’s plan to invite strategic partners to work with the SLPA on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis on the West Container Terminal—another deep water harbour facility— of the Colombo port.
However, he did not rule out the future possibility of a government to government (G2G) deal instead of an international tender to develop the West Container Terminal.
“I want to start the process by seeking approval shortly for a feasibility study to be done on the West Container Terminal,” he said.
Meanwhile, Samarasinghe said the Cabinet has approved his proposal to carry out a feasibility study on Colombo North Port with the assistance of ADB. “This will be done in a very short period of time.”
Claiming it to be a key milestone for the local tourism sector, Samarasinghe is confident about the impact the proposed Galle marina will have on the tourism industry.
“We have called for expressions of interest (EOIs) for the development of the Galle harbour marina. We will have a state-of-the-art Galle Marina very shortly, linking it to tourism development that is taking place in that region,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Samarasinghe assured that the Hambanthota port agreement with the Chinese was a 100 percent commercial venture.
He said that Sri Lanka received US$ 974 million from China Merchant Port (CMPort) for 70 percent of equity, and that 30 percent of equity is on the hands of the SLPA.
“It’s a 99-year lease, and in 80 years, the majority equity holder in Hambanthota will be the SLPA.”
He claimed that the US$ 974 million has gone straight to the Treasury coffers, thus strengthening the economic fundamentals of Sri Lanka, and that another US$ 146 million had come in as a foreign direct investment (FDI).
“Another US$ 400-600 million will be invested by CMPort in the next few years in embarking on the third phase of the Hambanthota port,” the minister declared.
He also said Cabinet approval has been received for a US $ 40 million loan from India for the development of the Kankesanthurai Harbour in the Northern part of the country.
The minister also said the Trincomalee harbour is going to be developed in an accelerated manner.
“Singapore’s Surbana Jurong has finished the master plan for Trincomalee district and it has been handed over to us and we are now in the process of studying this master plan, so that we can move with it and embark on accelerated development of the Trincomalee harbour.”
Samarasinghe noted that SLPA is by far the largest land holding entity of Trincomalee, with a total area spanning of around 5,000 hectares of land next to the Trincomalee harbour.
He said SLPA is open to give the land to potential investors for development on PPP basis.