Hambantota Port phase II commissions with water filling

Published : 10:52 am  July 13, 2015 | No comments so far |  | 

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The filling of water into Phase II of the Hambantota Port was initiated on Saturday by Ports, Shipping and Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranatunga at a simple ceremony which lacked the pomp and majesty of similar occasions in the past. “It’s a special day to be filling sea water into Phase II of the port.

There have been allegations that we’ll stop development. On January 8, under the leadership of the President and the Prime Minister, we had planned to continue all infrastructure development, but at a lower cost,” Ranatunga said.

He noted that past development had taken place with unnecessary costs which had placed a huge debt burden on citizens.
Development of the Hambantota Port was undertaken by the previous regime with commercial loans drawn from the EXIM Bank of China.

Widespread consensus was that Hambantota Port, along with the Colombo Port City and the Colombo International Container Terminal were part of the Chinese government’s ‘string of pearls’ strategy to gain control of the Indian Ocean.

Commissioning Phase II so close to the elections could be seen as either a move by the new regime to show its commitment to continue development, or as a result of possible diplomatic pressure exerted by China in the midst of worsening relations between the two countries.

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Phase I of the project had cost over US$ 500 million, while Phase II had cost another US$ 800 million.
“Over US$ 800 million was spent on this phase prior to us taking over. How are we going to recover this? Previously, they were making plans to recover the money after the spending was done. This was their mistake,” Ranatunga said.

He expressed that the repayment will be undertaken by the new regime without attempting to destabilize the national economy.
The basin of Phase II covers 84 hectares and will consist of 14 million cubic metres of sea water filled from a reservoir created for the purpose earlier.

Filling of the basin is expected to take 50 days, following which, the coffer dam constructed between Phases I and II will be removed, linking the new area to the sea.
Under the previous regime, Phase III was set for completion in 2023, which, along with other support service centres was set to cost another US$550 million.

However, Ports Authority officials and maritime experts say that Phases I and II will be sufficient for Sri Lanka to cater to all possible shipping for the next 50 years.
Ranatunga recently said that a carefully planned national maritime policy is in the making.(CW)

 

 

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