The Sri Lankan government is to looking to attract overseas involvement in the running of two new port terminals in Colombo and Hambantota.
It has called for joint venture partners to operate a deepwater container terminal at Colombo, Sri Lanka’s commercial capital and largest city, as well as operate a roll-on, roll-off berth at the southern port of Hambantota, where vehicle transhipment is growing fast.
Arjuna Ranatunga, the country’s minister of ports and shipping, has made a formal request for proposals from shipping companies or private terminal operators interested in managing the as-yet-unfinished East Container Terminal at the new Colombo South Harbour. He is also seeking tenders to operate the multi-purpose berth at Hambantota.
According to the government statement, the state-owned Sri Lanka Ports Authority will retain 51 percent ownership of the joint venture.
The Port of Colombo is the largest and busiest port in Sri Lanka as well as South Asia. In 2014 alone, the port handled a total of 4,9 million twenty-foot-equivalent units, according to data from PIERS, a sister company of JOC.com within IHS Maritime and Trade. With the addition of the Colombo South Harbour in 2013, the port is now the only marine gateway in South Asia with the draft and gantry cranes that can handle mega-ships.
“Ships can easily reach East African countries and Western Australia directly from Hambantota port, which is situated between Singapore and Dubai,” the government said in its statement.
Sri Lankan ports are already home to considerable international investment. China in particular has shown a strong interest in deepening its ties with the strategically placed Indian Ocean island. Late last year, the country’s top port operator and an engineering group announced that they would would invest $601 million in a container terminal at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port.
That port, which opened in November 2010, is set to be Sri Lanka’s largest port and will provide access to traffic on one of the world’s busiest east-west shipping lanes once construction is completed.