Wednesday, 28 October 2020 14:09

East Container Terminal resumes operation with Indian backing

Operations at the East Container Terminal (ECT) which were suspended for a period of 05 years, resumed today.

Sri Lanka has “assured” India that the high-profile Colombo Port project will remain with New Delhi despite opposition pressure to review the $500-million deal.

General (Retd) Daya Ratnayake, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority speaking to News 1st said the operations resumed in accordance with a decision reached by the Cabinet of Ministers.

He said only 40% of the total construction of ECT was completed and operations resumed to meet the growing demand of the port operations.

A cargo vessel from Mediterranean Shipping Company, the top customer of the Colombo Port, reached the East Container Terminal today to inaugurate operations.

The 300-meter long vessel was operating from South Africa to China.

The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) yesterday commissioned the much-delayed East Container Terminal (ECT), which figured in geopolitics in the Indian Ocean among other controversies.

Sri Lanka is now embroiled in confusion regarding India and Japan’s Eastern Container Terminal (ECT) Project, suspension of the Japan-funded Light Rail Project, 

The MSC Emma, which belongs to the world’s second-largest shipping line in terms of container vessel capacity, was the first ship to be served at the ECT yesterday.

As part of the expansion of South Asia’s hub port, the SLPA built the breakwater for ECT and subsequently it was to be developed as public private partnership. Multiple models were explored by successive governments in the recent past and ECT came up for competitive bidding as well.

A joint venture consortium involving companies from India and Japan were shortlisted, after it was communicated that a party with Indian ownership is preferred to manage a terminal in Colombo, as the most modern facility CICT is owned and operated by a majority China-owned corporation.

China also manages the Hambantota port. The other reason for the India-Japan-Sri Lanka model was the fact that 75% of Colombo port’s transshipment business is to and from India.

However following the election of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa regime, ECT came under pressure to be locally developed, a move which was backed by politically-backed Port Trade Unions. SLPA ordered the required cranes as well, as the delay was costing billions of rupees apart from constraining capacity at the Colombo port.

Nevertheless, a re-visit to the India-Japan-Sri Lanka consortium model was on the cards or being pursued and this matter had come up for discussion at Monday’s Cabinet meeting as well.

However, the commissioning of ECT yesterday took place amidst these developments and coincidentally few hours ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Colombo from India.



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