operations are set to resume shortly at the ailing Hambantota Port under the
new management group and will be critical to the port’s success according to
Sri Lankan media reports.
arrivals to Hambantota port had actually increased in 2012-2014 before
declining in 2015-2017 due to the new government’s decision to halt
fuel-bunkering operations. This activity was the very purpose of the port in
President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s negotiations with Beijing in 2005 — before
completion of the wider Hambantota development project beyond the port — to
include a highway, LPG transshipment terminal, LNG plant, and industrial zone —
will be important for promoting its growth.
development planners have detailed the problems with how the Hambantota
project could be resolved. A British firm is developing a master plan for the
district that can draw on these lessons learned in order to position the port
project for wider regional success. Highway expansion from Matara to Hambantota
is visible, and railroad expansion from Matara to Beliatta is almost complete.
initiatives will increase internal connectivity, providing direct links between
Colombo and Hambantota. The Chinese-backed Southern Expressway has already
reduced the time to travel between the two port locations to roughly four
hours, and the travel time will likely drop to 2.5 hours upon completion. The
highway is also expected to boost tourism to the east..
the port’s largest business at present is trans-shipping automobiles built in
Asia to East Africa. A substantial majority of the business is Japanese,
followed by Indian (from Chennai).
operators use Hambantota due to the significant yard space for roll-on,
roll-off shipping, unlike in Colombo. Ultimately, the shipping industry will
determine the business viability of this port and surrounding zone. But for
strategists, this Japanese and Indian activity suggests that Hambantota —
despite Chinese investment and majority control — could become a critical Node
in the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC).
African trade is expected to increase manifold in the next few years and the
Hambantota port is positioned to reap the benefits. Analysts see poor
performance of Indian port projects on this front. While Vallarpadem Port is
slowly picking up, other projects at Colachel and Vizhinjam have not taken off
India envision the AAGC as a transparent, sustainable alternative to China’s
Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for improving connectivity within the