Delays hurt Sri Lanka’s port plans

Hambantota port. Credit: Hambantota International Port Group

Political power plays add to the delay of Sri Lanka’s East Container Terminal, resulting in a capacity crunch at Columbo port

One of the most significant happenings in the ports scene on the Indian subcontinent was the signing of a tripartite agreement in May 2019 between Sri Lanka, India, and Japan for the operation and maintenance of the much-delayed East Container Terminal (ECT) at Colombo’s deep-draughted South Harbour, Sri Lanka.

Whereas the host nation retained a controlling 51% of the equity in the 2.4 million teu capacity greenfield terminal, the residual portion of the stake was shared between India and Japan. The move altered political equations on the Indian subcontinent, as it was an effort to counter-balance the controversial handing over of the nine-year-old Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa port at Hambantota, on the southeastern tip of the island, and 61 km2 of land around the port, to China in December 2018 on a 99-year lease.

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