COLOMBO: A Lanka-Sino joint venture is set to run the China-funded $1.4 billion Hambantota Port.
The joint venture was officially launched here on Saturday by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Mr Wickremesinghe described the occasion as “historic”, as it will help make the Hambantota Port part of Sri Lanka’s grand scheme to make the island nation the maritime hub of the Indian Ocean.
As a result of the joint venture, the Hambantota Port will be the largest multi-purpose port in Sri Lanka while also being the island’s single largest private investment.
The joint venture is between the public sector, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) of the Government of Sri Lanka and the China Merchant Port Holdings (CMPH). It envisages making Hambantota Port part of China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.
The aim is to make the Hambantota Port a “total logistics solution provider,” the CMPH said in a statement.
As result of the Concessional Agreement dated July 29, 2017, two companies have been formed to run the Hambantota Port — the Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) and the Hambantota International Port Services Co Pvt Ltd.
With $294 million handed in, the CMPH has given, as down payment, 40 per cent of the total of $1.2 billion pledged to the port as per the Concession Agreement.
Sri Lanka will have three ports — one in the West (Colombo), one in the South (Hambantota), and one in the East (Trincomalee) — to make it an ideal maritime hub of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister said.
Through OBOR, Sri Lanka will become a maritime hub as it was in pre-colonial times when the Chinese had a maritime silk route girdling the globe, the Lankan prime minister said.
Sri Lanka lost its place in the maritime route because of the disruption of the system by the colonial powers, he explained.
Mr Wickremsinghe said that the Hambantota Port will be part of a larger scheme to make the area around it a hub of industrial activity with a cement plant and an oil refinery coming up in the proposed Economic Zone.
In a document released on the occasion of the inauguration it was stated the aim of the government of Sri Lanka and CMPH is to transform Hambantota Port from a “transshipment hub” to a “total logistics hub” of the Indian Ocean region.
For the CMPH, Hambantota is the second investment in Sri Lanka, the first being the Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT). The CICT, which is the first phase of the Colombo South Harbor project, has been in existence for the past five years.
Executive Vice Chairman of CMPH, Dr Hu Jianhua said the joint venture will provide training and employment to Sri Lankans, especially the people of Hambantota district. Already, many local youth have gone for training in other projects run by the CMPH, he said.
Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2017