The ADB said that it was contemplating to distancing itself from the East Container Terminal (ECT) project in the Colombo Port due to delays in the government selecting finalists from the submitted expressions of interest (EOIs).
“We also have time frame. If there is no progress in this time frame—we don’t have an exact time frame—we cannot wait for too long. If it is not moving, we will have to discuss with the government whether they still want ADB to continue, or we can just stop, because we also have many other things to do in other countries,” Widowati said.
ADB is acting as a transaction advisor for the project. ECT, planned as a public-private partnership, is the second of three new terminals planned under the Colombo Port Expansion Project.
ECT will have the same 18 meter depth and 2.4 million annual container capacity as the first terminal of the expansion project, the Colombo International Container Terminal, which was constructed with an investment of US$ 500 million by the China Merchants Port Holdings Company Limited.
In order to balance the influence of China, those submitting the EOIs for ECT were asked to partner with a party from South Asia; preferably India.
Widowati said that the government has already finished evaluating the EOIs, but no decisions have been given.
“At that time, the government said that we should wait until the Hambantota issue was resolved. And now I understand that the Hambantota concession agreement was signed but still I got the news that they are still open for adjustments. I don’t know which one is true,” she said.
She added that the ADB has made follow up inquiries with the government.
“We’re following up with the government and the government always said ‘just wait’. We have been waiting for a green light for us to come back to assist them in this transaction,” she said.
The government has already finished constructing a 400-metre quay of the 1,200-metre ECT at a cost of US$ 80 million. Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe recently said that Sri Lanka Ports Authority had lost Rs.4 billion in the past two years due to delays in constructing ECT.