Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between Sri Lanka and India on April 26, last year, had not mentioned anything about handing over the Eastern Terminal of the Colombo Port to India.
It was in response to a question raised on whether there was any truth to the rumours on the subject.He was addressing the media at the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Headquarters, yesterday.Section 9 of the MOU mentioned the development of a container terminal at the Colombo Port as a joint venture with Indian investments, considering that the majority of transshipments at the Colombo Port was related to India. It also stated that the government would announce the awarding of the contract by May, last year, the minister said.
The Eastern Terminal of the Colombo Port would not be privatised as the government’s stance was to run it as a state-owned entity, he added.Minister Samarasinghe said that the government had no intention of privatising the Eastern Terminal (ET) of the Colombo Port and therefore, he had submitted a Cabinet paper seeking approval for the further development of it.
“I seek approval for international tenders to supply the necessary cranes to the terminal. The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has invested US$80 million to develop the Eastern Terminal and another US$80 million will be be required to install the necessary equipment, including cranes,” the minister said, adding that the SLPA could set aside US$ 80 million for the latter.
Furthermore, the government had no objection to hand over the development of the Colombo Port's Western Terminal to India as a joint venture, he added.“President Sirisena recently discussed the need to run the Colombo Port's Eastern Terminal as a state-owned entity with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while participating in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Summit,” the minister said.
He said that only deep terminals could handle large modern vessels. Hence, the Colombo Port's Eastern Terminal was the only state-owned terminal that could accommodate and handle such vessels. If the ET were to be privatised, the SLPA would be unable to handle large vessels, Minister Samarasinghe added.
The Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT), which was leased to China for a 35-year period during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime, could also handle such large vessels.