(Source : themorning.lk)

  • Scheduled to be completed by 4 July 2024
  • Total investment of $ 600 million
  • Constructions on WCT to commence in February 
  • Colombo Port capacity 35 million TEUs by 2035

Construction on the Colombo East Container Terminal (ECT), which has been at a standstill since 2015, will recommence today (12), announced the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) and the Minister of Ports and Shipping yesterday (11) at a government press conference.

Speaking to the media, SLPA Chairman Capt. Nihal Keppetipola stated that construction on civil work will commence today and that the total investment for the ECT would be $ 600-700 million which involves $ 200 million for civil construction, $ 20 million for terminal operating systems, $ 300 million for equipment acquisition, and $ 100 million – which has already been spent for previous construction.

According to him, six to seven years ago, this cost of construction would have been half of the current value as prices have since escalated.

Speaking at this event, Minister of Ports and Shipping Rohitha Abeygunawardena stated that the ECT will cover a total area of 75 hectares (ha) and will consist of a total quay length of 1,320 metres, of which 420 metres had been constructed by 2015 before the regime change. He added that the remaining constructions will be completed by July 2014.

“Construction on this terminal (ECT) is scheduled to end by 4 July 2024. We will be working according to a predetermined schedule under which construction of the first 600 metres of the terminal will be completed by 4 July 2023. Furthermore, we intend to place six STS cranes and 20 RMG cranes by 4 July 2023. Under the second phase, four STS and 20 RMG cranes will be acquired by 4 January 2024. Therefore, by July 2024, we will have a fully equipped terminal with 12 STS and 40 RMG cranes which will prove to be an asset to the economy,” stated Abeygunawardena.

He further stated that the “Jayabahalu Container Terminal (JCT)”, which was our inheritance from the British, has only a depth of around 13-15 metres. Therefore, many of the large container vessels in operation today cannot enter the JCT and only small-scale feeder vessels with a capacity of 4,000 containers can access the JCT.

According to him, the primary revenue generator of the Colombo Port is re-exporting, which requires the capacity to handle the largest container vessels in the country. Therefore, in 2008, then President Mahinda Rajapaksa built the Colombo Breakwater which involved an investment of $ 500 million financed with $ 100 million from the SLPA and $ 400 million from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

It was this construction of the breakwater which has given Sri Lanka ownership of three more terminals, stated Abeygunawardena.

In response to allegations made by the Opposition regarding the sale of terminals, he pointed to the fact that the cost of construction of a terminal is around $ 1 billion. He further claimed that in 2015, when the Yahapalana Government came into power, over 420 metres of the Eastern Terminal had already been constructed and they had ordered three STS cranes in order for the ECT to function as a fully equipped terminal.

“However, the Yahapalana Government cancelled our order for cranes and failed to lengthen the terminal even by one metre,” claimed Abeygunawardena.

He further disclosed that the construction of the Western Container Terminal (WCT) is scheduled to commence in February under a public-private partnership (PPP).

He further claimed: “The Colombo Port is currently ranked 23rd among major ports in the globe with a capacity of seven million TEUs and following the completion of the ECT, the total capacity would increase to 10 million TEUs and once the WCT is completed in 2025, our total capacity would be 14 million TEUs, increasing our rank to 13th.”

Commenting on the future plans of the SLPA, he claimed that the second phase of the WCT will commence in 2028 and that the northern breakwater, which will be constructed near the Kelani River, will provide Sri Lanka access to three more terminals, increasing the capacity of the Colombo Port to 35 million TEUs by 2035, taking Sri Lanka to the top five ports in the world.

Moreover, Capt. Keppetipola lamented over the delay in the construction of the ECT with constructions at a standstill since 2015 and pointed out that the Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) achieved a capacity of 3.2 million TEUs in 2021 because of the deep draught which can handle the largest vessels of the world, and claimed that the failure to proceed with the construction of the ECT since 2015 has deprived the SLPA a similar opportunity.

He further stated: “80% of the world’s volume of shipboard containers are handled by the three major alliances – 2M, Ocean Alliance, and THE alliance – whose portfolios contain mega ships and looking at their order books over the next one to two years, they have ordered over 270 ships with a capacity of over 10,000 TEUs. Looking at the order books, we can see that while a majority of new orders are below seven million TEUs, there are little to no orders for new vessels between seven to 10 million TEUs. This shows that only feeder vessels and mega lines will be built in the future, thus placing Sri Lanka in a unique position to become the feeder nerve centre in South Asia as no main line will deviate from the east-west shipping line due to various cost constraints.”