Concerns regarding the East Container Terminal in the Colombo Port has once again arisen.
During the previous government, the construction work of the East Terminal was proposed to be carried out as a joint project involving Japan, India, and Sri Lanka.
However, concerns have once again arisen over the risk of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority losing ownership of the terminal.
The Colombo Port currently consists of three main parts.
One of them is the Jaya Container Terminal, also known as JICT. It belongs to the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.
The South Asia Gateway Terminal, also known as the SAGT, is owned by Sri Lanka and international entities.
A majority of the shareholding in the Colombo International Container Terminal, more commonly known as the CICT, is owned by China.
This terminal is located adjacent to the Colombo Port City.
As a result, a terminal of sufficient capacity for the ports authority to dock large ships does not exist within the Colombo port at present.
Against such a backdrop, the East Container Terminal is being developed to accommodate large ships.
The ports authority commenced development at the East Container Terminal, with the funds obtained from a state bank.
The UNP faction of the Yahapalanaya government made continuous attempts to operate the East Container Terminal, as a joint venture between Sri Lanka, Japan, and India, despite India already has 13 major ports.
However, upon the intervention of then President Maithripala Sirisena, the National Economic Council on the 6th of June 2018, suspended this decision, and decided to develop this terminal as part of our country.
Accordingly, during the 52-day change in government, cabinet approval was granted to import the necessary equipment for development activities.
However, when the UNP led government came into power once again, then Ports Minister Sagala Rathnayaka had once again prepared a document to operate the East Container Terminal, as a joint venture between India, Japan, and Sri Lanka.
At present, three gantry cranes imported from China, which have been paid for, by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, have arrived at the Colombo port.
However, since last Saturday, the cranes are yet to be set up at the East Terminal.
Trade Unions of the SLPP claim that certain powerful officials are attempting to revive the plan to operate the East Container Terminal, as a joint venture between India, Japan and Sri Lanka.
Trade unions have repeatedly emphasized that the East Terminal can be improved and maintained under the authority of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.
Meanwhile, it has also been revealed that a large penalty fee is due to be paid to the ship transporting the Gantry cranes to Sri Lanka.
Who is hindering the development at the East Container Terminal?
Is depriving Sri Lanka of a valuable national asset, that could increase capacity and attract more vessels, their objective?
Employees of the SLPA urge that East Terminal be improved and maintained under the authority of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.
They also urge the President to ensure that operations at the terminal will not be given to any foreign national company.