East Container Terminal (ECT), the second deep-water facility at the Port of Colombo, has begun operations with the arrival of the MSC Emma, which sailed from the African continent before its onward leg towards China.
The terminal, which is run by the state-owned Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), is able to handle mega ships unlike the port authority’s two other terminals in Colombo – Jaya Container Terminal (JCT) and Unity Container Terminal (UCT).
The first phase of the project features a 450 m berth while an additional 600 m will be added in the second phase at a later date.
Cranes from JCT, which had not been used for more than five years, were moved to ECT to enable operations to take place.
Rohitha Abeygunawardena, minister of ports and shipping, said: “These development projects were neglected during the previous government and the present government seeks to make Sri Lanka a naval hub in Asia through the rapid pace of realising its vision of prosperity.”
Last year, the previous Sri Lanka government signed an agreement with India and Japan to develop ECT although the current government appears to favour a different course of action.
Local media have reported that one potential solution is for India’s Adani group to hold a 49% stake in the terminal with the SLPA retaining its majority share.
Port investments have become a politicised issue in the country after China Merchants Port Holdings (CM Port) agreed a 99-year lease for Hambantota Port in 2017.
CM Port also operates the existing deep-water terminal in the Port of Colombo – Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT).