By Nishel Fernando
The cold war between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is delaying the development of Colombo Port’s East Container Terminal (ECT), slimming the country’s chances of becoming a maritime hub in the region, a senior Cabinet
“The cold war between the President and the Prime Minister has caused the delay. We should have come to a conclusion by now. Unfortunately, we are yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The political decision making is very crucial and timely. Unfortunately, the debate over who will invest and who will own what terminal is delaying the realisation of Colombo Port’s potential,” City Planning, Water Supply and Higher Education Minister Rauff Hakeem said.
He made these remarks delivering the keynote address at the 26th Annual Awards Ceremony of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (UK) Sri Lanka branch, last Friday.
Speaking at the same event just before Hakeem, Ports & Shipping and Southern Development Minister Sagala Ratnayaka also admitted that the development of ECT remains the main challenge for him.
“This is the primary issue I had to deal with. We are looking how we can fast-track this. We decided to proceed with the procurement process. We had a proposal for a joint venture, on which the Cabinet still hasn’t been able to come to an agreement,” he revealed.
However, Ratnayaka said the government is currently evaluating several “good proposals,” which will also look to streamline
“We have now got further proposals which I think we will be able to reveal to the industry fairly soon. I would say very good proposals to the country, to the SLPA and to the industry. It will also streamline the operations of the terminal. Therefore, we will have efficient operations at the terminal. Unfortunately, I can’t reveal the details as yet,”
The ECT’s first phase was completed in 2015 with a US$ 80 million loan from Bank of Ceylon (BOC).
Ratnayaka noted that part of the terminal is equipped with a 440 metre quay berth and an 18 hectare yard in addition to other equipment. It has been estimated that ECT could be operationalized with a US$ 100 million investment. The government was originally planning to operationalze ECT by 2017.
President Sirisena has opposed any move to develop the ECT by the private sector or through a Public Private Partnership (PPP).
Ratnayaka expressed confidence over moving forward with a new model to develop the ECT, which can be replicated for West Container Terminal (WCT) as well.
The government in late 2016 called for Expressions of Interest (EoI) for the development of the ECT, and seven parties submitted applications.
Ratnayaka warned that further delays in development of the ECT would stagnate the future growth of the Colombo Port, as it has reached its peak capacity.
In addition to ECT, Sri Lanka Ports Authority has projected that the Colombo Port will require first stage of WCT to be launched by 2025, in order to manage the increasing traffic to Colombo Port.