Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Hambantota Port will become a reality on 15th August 2010

The Water Influx ceremony of the world's first international harbour completely built inland will be inaugurated by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at 9.00 a.m. on Sunday, (15th August). Hambantota had been a well known sea port in the ancient history of Sri Lanka as the name "Hambana" itself being the name of sailing vessels that had been used in the ancient times that frequented many Asian ports. Even the activities of Hambantota as a sea port are mentioned in the R.L.Bohier's book on Sri Lanka written in the Second Century. Hambantota is situated at closest point to the main shipping route that connects East and West. 200 to 300 ships ply this area daily, and now they call at Singapore and Dubai Ports.

The idea of building a modern port in Hambantota was first mooted by the late Parliamentarian Mr. D.A.Rajapaksa, the father of President Rajapaksa. But it did not materialize. Later the idea came up time to time, raised in Parliament by many Mps. It remained a suggestion but never saw the light of the day due to many reasons. The Chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority Dr. Priyath Bandu Wickrema says that a foreign company which was hired to carry out a feasibility study reported saying the location, Hambantota was not suitable to build a harbor and this brought the whole project to halt. However, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister then, was not impressed by the pessimistic attitude of the report and was determined to overcome the negative reaction and proceed with it.

Upon becoming President in November 2005, China was chosen to fund the project. Dr. Bandu says that Sri Lanka made an open request for funding and China was the first to respond. The port was built on a 2000 hectares of land and 450 families lived in the area were relocated with payment of adequate compensation.

The Hambantota Port is being constructed by the Chinese companies China Harbour Engineering Company and Sinohydro Corporation. The total cost of the first phase of the project is estimated at $360 million. 85% of the funding is provided by the Chinese Government and the remaining 15% by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.

The mouth of the natural harbour at Hambantota has a 22m depth. When completed, the port will have a 1.5 km long breakwater, with a minimum basin depth of 17m. The turning circle will be 600m. A dam will also be built to prevent flooding in nearby areas, and a seawall made of interlocking concrete blocks will protect the port from high seas.

A $550 million tax-free port zone is being set up outside the port, with local and international companies expressing interest in setting up shipbuilding, ship-repair and warehousing facilities in the zone. The Port is expected to provide 13,000 direct and indirect employments to over 100,000 people

The first phase of the Port will consist of two 600m general purpose berths, a 310m bunkering berth and a 120m small craft berth. It will also contain a bunkering facility and tank farm which will include 8 tanks for marine fuel, 3 tanks containing aviation fuel and 3 for Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG). A 15 floor administrative complex is also under construction as part of the project.

The port will also have facilities to handle port related large scale industries such as handling and bagging of cement and fertilizer in addition to storage of fuel and LP Gas thereby providing opportunity for a third LP Gas operator to open up business that would create competitiveness in the gas market. The oil tank farm will have 14 tanks of which 8 tanks will be for storage of fuel for bunkering facilities for vessels, 3 tanks for storage of aero fuel and the other 3 tanks for storage of LP Gas.

The total project will be completed in 4 stages and the first stage operations will commence in November this year, one year ahead of schedule. During the first stage the port will handle 3 ships a day, and after completion of the total project, the Port will be able to handle 33 ships at a time.

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