Sri Lanka seeks Indian subcontinent partner for completing half built port

Sri Lanka is seeking a partner from the Indian subcontinent to develop a port designed to be its deepest and accommodate the world’s largest container vessels, Shipping Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said on Thursday.

The Sri Lanka Port Authority (SLPA) is looking for a foreign investor with about USD 400 million to complete the half-built East Container Terminal at the Colombo port, Ranatunga said.

“We are looking for an investor who should come in with a shipping operator from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh,” the minister told reporters in Colombo. He said the investor should partner a shipping line that could guarantee additional traffic of one million containers through the port of Colombo, which currently handles over five million containers a year.

The Sri Lankan government is keen to involve a company from the Indian subcontinent because about 75 percent of container traffic through Colombo is trans-shipment cargo from the region, the minister said.

He said the SLPA had spent USD 80 million to build 430 metres of a 1,200 metre-terminal which he hopes to complete with foreign capital. “We have no money to invest, but we want a 15 percent stake in a joint venture to develop this mega container terminal,” he added.

The project comes three years after the opening of the USD 500 million Chinese-built Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT), which made Colombo the only mega port between Dubai and Singapore. Ranatunga said the East Container Terminal will be about two metres (yards) deeper, when completed, than the CICT.