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Sri Lanka scotches speculations that Colombo port East Container terminal will be handed over to India

Sri Lanka has scotched speculations that the Colombo Port East Container terminal will be handed over to India when the countryís port minister Samarasingh said he would soon be moving a proposal before the Sri Lankan Cabinet recommending that the terminalís operations be handed over to the Sri Lankan Port Authority according to Sri Lankan media reports.

Speculations were rife for over a year that the new terminal will be handed over to India and that the Container Corporation of India will take over the Operations. Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari confirmed the proposal while addressing newspersons after launching the Adaniís Container terminal at Ennore port last year. The proposal under consideration of the Sri Lankan government was  to give it on lease to India for thirty five years like the one given to Chinese companies to run the other terminals in Colombo port.

Mr Samarasimghe said the proposal he would move in the Sri Lankan Cabinet is that the countryís Port Authority will operate the terminal. He wanted to quicken the pace of operation of the terminal and therefore will be moving the cabinet. Setting the time frame for commissioning of the terminal, he said it would take at least eighteen months to acquire brand new machinery and equipment for the terminal. The government was also exploring the possibility of leasing some equipment for the proposed terminal.

He said it was the previous governments that leased out two container terminals of Colombo port South Asia Gateway terminal and Colombo International container terminal to Chinese companies which held 85 per cent of the stakes and remaining were held by Sri Lankan Port Authority. The agreements were for a thirty year Build Operate Transfer basis

The Sri Lankan Minister strongly defended recent visits to Trincomalee and Hambantota harbours undertaken by Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera. The ministerís two-day visit coincided with JMSDF "Ikazuchi" arrival at the Trincomalee harbour earlier this week. The Defence Minister was accompanied by Japanese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Kenichi Suganuma.

Samarasinghe said that the Hambantota port was not sold but leased to China enterprise. Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) and Hambantota International Port Services (HIPS), two new companies set up by the China Merchants Port Holdings Company and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority are in control of the port.

However, Samarasinghe made no reference to the fact that Hambantota port had been given on a 99-year-lease.

 Commenting on Sri Lankaís relations with India, China and Japan, particularly in aviation and maritime domains, Samarasinghe paid a glowing tribute to Japan for significant support provided over the years. Samarasinghe said that Japan had provided a substantial grant to improve the Trincomalee harbour in addition to backing the expansion of the Colombo port.Samarasinghe said that no one should be concerned about foreign delegates visiting Hambantota port.

Samarasinghe dismissed media reports that Mattala airport was to be handed over to India because China got the Hambantota port. Samarasinghe said that there was no basis for such an assertion.

Sri Lanka was keen to bring in foreign investors because Mattala required such investment, Samarasinghe said. According to Samarasinghe talks were underway with India to finalize deal on the Mattala airport.


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