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Sri Lanka to develop WCT at Colombo Port with India, Japan

Gateway Terminals, in which APM Terminals has 74% stake and Container Corp. of India (Concor) 26%, is India’s largest container terminal, accounting for almost a fifth of the country’s container traffic. Photo: MintPremium
Gateway Terminals, in which APM Terminals has 74% stake and Container Corp. of India (Concor) 26%, is India’s largest container terminal, accounting for almost a fifth of the country’s container traffic. Photo: Mint

  • India’s Adani Ports had been one of the partners to develop the East Container Terminal previously
  • A statement from the Sri Lankan government said the WCT would be developed as a public-private limited company in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority

New Delhi: Sri Lanka on Tuesday said it will develop the West Container Terminal (WCT) at the Colombo Port with India’s and Japan’s assistance, almost a month after saying the two countries could not build the East Container Terminal because of opposition by workers’ unions against “foreign involvement".

The Sri Lankan cabinet on Monday gave the green signal to the development of WCT by “parties nominated" by the two countries. India’s Adani Ports was one of the partners to develop the ECT.

The three governments will now sign an agreement to develop the WCT.

The WCT will be developed as a “public-private limited company in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority", according to Sri Lanka. Colombo has also decided to appoint a “cabinet-appointed negotiation committee and a project committee to evaluate the proposals in this regard".

Accordingly, the build-operate-transfer plan approved by the negotiation committee has been forwarded to the High Commission of India and the Embassy of Japan requesting them to nominate investors, it said. “The proposal presented by Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ) has been approved by the Indian High Commission," it said.

Though the Indian government has not issued a statement yet, an Indian High Commission official said in Colombo that he was “surprised" by the statement given that any investment in Sri Lanka had to be approved by the Colombo government and not by the Indian High Commission.

People familiar with the matter in India, however, expressed reservations about the Sri Lankan government offering the WCT for development after cancelling the contract related on ECT on 1 February. The three countries, Sri Lanka, India, and Japan, had signed an agreement in 2019 for the development of the ECT located at one of the two edges of the Colombo International Container Terminal at the port, operated jointly by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and Beijing-owned China Merchants Port Holdings Co. Ltd. In recent years, China has expanded its presence in the island nation, seen as lying within India’s sphere of influence in South Asia.

Relations between New Delhi and Colombo had been strained considering the perceived tilt of the Rajapaksa brothers towards Beijing.

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