The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) must keep a controlling stake in East Container Terminal (ECT) to ensure it runs a deep-water facility in the Port of Colombo according to Sagala Ratnayaka, Sri Lanka’s minister of ports and shipping.
The existing state-run facilities at the port – Jaya Container Terminal (JCT) and Unity Container Terminal (UCT) – do not have the sufficient depth to berth mega-ships.
Currently, the Port of Colombo has four container terminals but only one – Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT) operated by China Merchants Port Holdings – is a deep-water facility with the ability to handle the largest vessels in the world.
He stated: “We are working towards obtaining a loan from the Government of Japan, with an interest rate of 0.1% and a grace period of 12 years subjected to a payment period of 40 years.”
The minister noted that by increasing the container throughput, the government aims to earn US$64m per year from the proposed Eastern Terminal development project, which will conclude by the end of next year.
This contrasts favourably to the US$15m it earns annually from South Asia Gateway Terminals (SAGT) and the US$25m it earns each year from CICT.
Ratnayaka highlighted the urgent need to construct terminals with more depth, length, and capacity to accommodate mega vessels.
He added: “Already the terminal, which is 440 m long is developed but it needs to extend to 1,350 m enabling three mega vessels to berth at the same time. We will fit equipment to 440 m during the first stage.
“Unless we take the correct decision now it will be a loss for the country. We are looking at starting the operations of this terminal by the end of next year.”
Earlier in September, he noted that US$190m will be invested to installs gantry cranes and other infrastructure at the terminal.