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ECT Development work at the Colombo Port gets underway

The Eastern Container Terminal (ECT) Development work has been launched at the Colombo Port today under the patronage of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Sri Lanka Ports Authority said that work on the terminal is expected to be completed by 2024.

India had earlier offered to develop the strategic ECT with Japan but the current Government had instead decided to offer the West Terminal to India.

Cabinet approval was later granted to develop the Eastern Container Terminal in stages as a terminal totally operated by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.

Accordingly, international competitive bids had been invited for Phase II of the Eastern Container Terminal at the Colombo Port.

China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) was picked to develop Phase II of the Colombo Port Eastern Container Terminal.

With the planned construction beginning today, the length of the Eastern Terminal will increase to 1,320 meters and has been scheduled to be completed in July 2024.

Secretary to the Ministry of Ports, U. D. C. Jayalal said the project costs US$ 500 million.

The first phase of the terminal is scheduled to be completed on the 4th of July next year and the terminal will span over 600 meters.

In the first phase, 6 ship-to-shore cranes and 20 rail-mounted gantry (RMG) cranes will be installed at the Eastern Terminal.

Once completed, the terminal will consist of 12 giant cranes and 40 normal cranes.

Speaking at the event Sri Lanka’s Minister of Ports and Shipping Rohitha Abeygunawardena said, construction of the West Terminal will begin in February 2022 as a joint venture with the private sector and the operational capacity is expected to increase drastically.

The minister noted that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will have the honour of uplifting the Port of Colombo to world number 13 from its current position of 23.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa responding to concerns surrounding such development projects said that most governments in the past back-peddled at times of economic crisis and the next 3 years are vital for the current government..

Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa noted that this Government never thought of making itself feel comfortable and a Government that thinks of its own benefit will not give the public concessions worth US$ 650 million.

With a 420 metre quay wall built with US$ 100 million investment, SLPA is currently operating the ECT using the cranes ordered for Jaya Container Terminal (JCT)-5. 

However, SLPA Chairman Capt. Nihal Keppetipola noted that these cranes will be replaced with cranes ordered for the ECT. 

 Last November, Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co. Ltd, a unit of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) won the international tender to supply 12 ship-to-shore cranes and 40 automated rail mounted gantry cranes for 
the ECT. 

 According to Capt. Keppetipola, the cost of the required equipment for the terminal is estimated at US$ 300 million.

The civil construction work of the ECT was awarded to a joint venture between Access Engineering PLC (AEL) and China Harbour Engineering, another unit of CCC. 

The cost of civil construction is estimated at US$ 200 million, which is to be directly financed with SLPA funds. In addition, US$ 20 million will be invested in a terminal operation system.

Once the ECT becomes fully operational in 2024, Minister Abeygunawardena highlighted that Port of Colombo’s capacity will be increased to handle 10.5 million TEUs from the current seven million TEUs, becoming the 13th busiest container port in the world.

Commenting on potential competition arising from China Merchant Group-managed Hambantota Port, Capt. Keppetipola dismissed such claims as unrealistic. 

The authority  also has  plans to develop container terminal at a later stage, but they will never compete with the Port of Colombo as it doesn’t make sense to have two competing hubs in the close vicinity,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Minister Abeygunawardena announced that the construction of West Container Terminal (WCT) is scheduled to commence in February this year.  India’s Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ) last year signed the build-operate-transfer (BOT) agreement to develop and operate WCT with its local partner John Keells Holdings (JKH) and SLPA, with an investment of US$ 700 million.

With the WCT coming into operation as the third deep-water terminal, the Port of Colombo’s capacity is set to increase by another 3.5 million TEUs. 

In addition, the SLPA also plans to develop Colombo North Port, to the north of Port of Colombo, spreading from the Kelani River in the Modara area, up to the existing northern breakwater of the Colombo Port. The SLPA in 2020 sign an agreement with AECOM Infrastructure & Environment UK Limited to conduct a feasibility study for this.

Minister Abeygunawardena noted that the government plans to complete the construction of Colombo North Port by end of 2035 adding another three terminals and increasing the capacity of Port of Colombo to 30-35 million TEUs and possibly placing the Port of Colombo among top five ports in the world.  

“Sri Lanka is in an ideal place to become the hub of South-East Asia, being the feeder nerve centre for South East Asia. 

No shipping line will deviate from the East-West route due to various operational costs and shipping costs. We are now getting on to the correct track,” Capt. Keppetipola added.

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