The government will develop the Colombo Port's East Container Terminal (ECT) to be the largest and deepest container terminal in South Asia without any foreign funding, Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said yesterday. He said he would submit the proposal and blueprint of the development plan to the Cabinet shortly.
“The Hambantota Port is being operated and managed by two Sri Lankan and Chinese companies -- Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) owned by the CMPort of China and the Hambantota International Port Services (HIPS) owned by the SLPA on a 90-year lease agreement.
The majority shares are held by the Chinese company. The biggest container terminal at the Colombo Port, the South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT), is also operated and managed by a conglomerate that includes Maersk Group and John Keells on a 30-year lease agreement signed during the Chandrika Kumaratunga government. Funding for the development of ECT will be provided by the SLPA and the Treasury,” he said.
When asked about the cost of the development project, the minister said it would be known only after the tender was offered to produce machinery and a minimum of 15 months was needed to produce and deliver the machinery.
“After obtaining Cabinet approval, I will call worldwide tenders for machinery to be set up at the ECT. It will take a minimum of 15 months to manufacture, deliver and fix the machinery. But we cannot wait for that long to begin the development and expansion programme. I hope to obtain machinery on lease after calling tenders only for the interim period,” he said.
The minister said the three terminals at the Port of Colombo, the Jeya Container Terminal, SAGT and ECT cannot take massive ships and tankers because they are fully-occupied round the clock.
“Besides, the depth of three terminals does not permit access to big vessels. Once the ECT’s development project is concluded, the ECT will provide berthing facilities to some of the biggest ships and tankers in the world. The development project of the ECT will be launched in three months,” he said