The Chinese-built strategic southern port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka is set to become fully functional as a multi-purpose port by the next year, a top official of the company building it said on Monday.
Located ten nautical miles from the global shipping route linking the Far East with the West, Hambantota Port is Sri Lanka's most diversified deep-water, multi-purpose port. It offers a comprehensive range of services for the shipping industry, with a focus on new technologies and environmentally sustainable practices, in keeping with the latest advances in the maritime sector.
The port has great potential in energy services due to its location in the Indian Ocean rim, where 50 per cent of the world's maritime oil is traded. The port's LPG and future LNG operations are sure to cement its position as an energy hub in the region.
"As Hambantota port is working towards being a fully functional multi-purpose port by next year, we are gearing at all levels, which includes continuous training and testing our systems for optimum efficiency which is part of the DNA of all China Merchants Port Holdings (CMPort) operations across the globe, said Lance Zuo, General Manager, Commercial and Marketing, Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG).
HIPG responded very well to the challenges during the lockdown, and today we can say that our unique selling proposition is the efficiency of the port. This comes from a responsive workforce at all levels of the operation and best equipment being used to assist the smooth running of it, the official said in a statement.
HIPG is a joint venture between the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and the Chinese state-owned China Merchants Port Holdings.
In 2016, the Sri Lankan government decided to privatise an 80 per cent stake of the port to raise foreign exchange. CMPort paid USD 1.12 billion to revive the port under a publicprivate partnership. During the first half of 2021, the port has recorded overall growth in its volumes and diversification of services.
"The port's overall cargo handling volume has increased from 420,421 MT by end June 2020, to a significant 1,206,425 MT, during the corresponding period this year. HIPG continued its operations without interruption throughout the pandemic and is now seeing the results of experienced port management combined with the dedicated services provided to their customers, the company said.
China is one of the biggest investors in various infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka. But there has been criticism, both locally and internationally, and growing concerns that China has lured Sri Lanka into a debt trap.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, however, has rejected concerns that China has lured Sri Lanka into a debt trap by financing the Hambantota Port and said the project has a vast potential for generating income and employment opportunities.
The 99-year lease of the Hambantota port to China has raised red flags about the downside of China's multi-billion Belt and Road Initiative.
Struggling to pay back over USD 8 billion-dollar Chinese loans and investments, the previous Sri Lankan government has handed over the majority share of the Hambantota port to the Chinese state-owned company on a 99-year lease to raise USD 1.2 billion.
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