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Saturday, December 7, 2019
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Lanka eyes South Asian hub with Colombo port
 

 

A $500 million Colombo South Harbour will open today. The massive terminal in Colombo is located mid-way on the lucrative east-west sea route and has facilities on a par with Singapore and Dubai.

The Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT), which is 85 percent, owned by the state-run China Merchant Holdings International, is designed to handle mega ships, a first for Sri Lanka which is aiming to become the region’s shipping hub.

Chinese loans and expertise were also instrumental in the construction of a new $450 million deep-sea port at the southern Sri Lankan city of Hambantota which opened in June 2012.

Priyath Bandu Wickrama, Chairman, Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), said that shippers in India could save up to four days by routing their cargo through Sri Lanka rather than using Singapore or Dubai.

“Earlier, Indians along the east coast had to send their cargo to Singapore if they wanted to catch a mega ship going west. Now these mega ships will be going through Colombo and picking up Indian cargo,” he told AFP.

“That saves time and a lot of money.” The two major ports of south India, the Port of Cochin and the Port of Tuticorin, are too shallow for mega vessels such as the world’s largest container ship, the MV. Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller.

Saliya Senanayake from the London-based Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport says that India is about five to six years behind Sri Lanka when it comes to port infrastructure.

The SLPA is pouring millions of dollars into infrastructure around the island and says it is on course to increase container handling capacity by 1.6 million containers to 6.4 million by April.

It hopes to have a container capacity of 10 million by 2020, while revenue is forecast to triple to one billion dollars by 2020.

Hambantota, which is just 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) away from the East-West sea lane, is being promoted as a key service centre and industrial port where large ships can re-fuel or take on fresh food.

Professor Tsz Leung Yip, head of the International Centre for Maritime Studies at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said Chinese expertise coupled with Colombo’s strategic location would make Sri Lanka a key stop-over for international carriers who want to avoid the threat posed by Somali pirates operating off the Gulf of Aden.

“In the presence of Somalia pirates, it is safer for ships (from the Far East to Europe) to stop over at Sri Lanka and head to Cape of Good Hope, without calling at Dubai port.”

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