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Sri Lanka Aims to Become Asian Shipping HubTuesday, August 09, 2011 > 12:42:45
Sri Lanka aims to create an Asian shipping hub capable of competing with Singapore and Dubai by pouring US$3.4 billion into expanding ports with Chinese help, after the island container volumes surged to a record, reported Sunday Oserver (Sri Lanka).
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has a goal of capitalising on the end of a 26-year civil war to build a trade gateway to emerging markets, and port revenue may almost triple to US$656 million in 2015 from 2010, it has been estimated.
The government forecasts rising cargo levels will enable transportation, including ports, to make up 40% of gross domestic product by 2020, a fourfold gain from last year. Economic growth reached a 32-year high of eight per cent in 2010 amid Chinese investment in roads and harbours.
President Rajapaksa is seeking to take advantage of Sri Lanka's position – 31 kilometres off India's southern coast. There lie the main shipping lanes linking the Far East, West Asia, Africa and Europe.
Deeper berths, new terminals and increased efficiency in the capital, Colombo, and in southern Hambantota city will allow bigger, super post-Panamax ships to dock and transfer cargo more quickly to and from smaller vessels that carry goods for India and other emerging markets.
The government is seeking to close the gap with Singapore, the top container port in 2009, and Dubai, which ranked seventh, according to data from London-based Cargo Systems.
Container volume in Sri Lanka surged 22% in 2010 to 4.16 million TEUs.
Last year's level was a record, Sri Lanka Ports Authority chairman, Priyath Wickrama said, adding that it is expected to rise 10% in 2011 and as much as 20% next year, with target capacity for the capital and Hambantota combined set at 12.8 million units by 2015.
“Hambantota is the most suitable location to feed the Indian Subcontinent,’’ he said. A combination of Colombo and Hambantota will compete with Dubai, Salalah and Singapore.
Colombo's three existing terminals currently account for the island's entire cargo volume. Hambantota is still under development. The goal is for five Colombo terminals by 2015 with a total capacity of 10.8 million TEUs.
Meanwhile, China has tightened its embrace of Sri Lanka by committing at least $3.7 billion since 2005 for projects from ports to a power plant.