Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was on a multi-faceted inspection tour of the Hambantota International Port (HIP) to appraise the ongoing development projects at the port.
Johnson Liu, CEO of Hambantota International Port Group, giving a grand welcome to the Prime Minister and his delegation said “it is my sincere pleasure to have Honorable Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at this special event. Today, we witness the progress and success of the port, which was developed under your guidance and visionary leadership, and this port now serves as a beacon light for the economic development of the southern region of Sri Lanka.”
The Prime Minister was accompanied by Qi Zhenhong, Ambassador of China to Sri Lanka and Ministers G L Pieris, Chamal Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapaksa. The PM’s visit also coincided with the port achieving the milestone of 500,000 RORO vehicles handled in 2021, for which he participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The visit included the laying of the foundation stone for the port’s first Bonded Warehouse Project, after which the Prime Minister was accompanied by the port team to inspect the construction sites of plants being set up by the Xinji Shenzhen Group and Ceylon Tire Manufacturing Company. The PM also inspected the slope protection project initiated by the port to stabilise the area for the tire manufacturing facility, which is a US$ 300 million investment. The project, being developed on 55.8 hectares of land which includes scope for an additional 16 acres for its second phase, has a commitment to export 30,000 container units annually, and is expected to create more than 3000 job opportunities. The US$ 15 million plug and play park in park facility by the Xinji Shenzhen Group, a high-tech facility to provide ‘one stop’ services to light industries, is being built on 3.07 hectares of land and will create approximately 500 jobs.
The Prime Minister and his delegation were given a brief introduction to the Master Plan for the HIP Industrial Park by CEO Johnson Liu. The delegates were briefed on the new Hope Village project being established by the port to benefit surrounding communities which will help develop livelihoods in animal husbandry and agriculture. HIPG’s vision is to inspire positive change and empower people and communities while protecting the environment and people to create a sustainably powered future. In line with that, HIP has carried out 43 CSR projects since 2018, with more than Rs. 80 million donated for the upliftment of local communities.
The tour ended at an event held on the 12th floor of the Hambantota Maritime Center where COO of HIPG Tissa Wickramasinghe presented the PM with a project report on all the development activities at the Hambantota International Port.
The Logistics Warehouse facility which is being built by Hambantota Port and Logistics Services Pvt. Ltd., the warehousing arm of the Colombo Logistics Group to store bagged cargo, is being developed on a land area of approximately 1 hectare. The Colombo Logistics Group, the first local investor for warehousing in HIP, has 14 years of experience in developing large scale ventures, acquiring a reputation for fast paced expansion in the country’s logistics sector.
The new warehousing facility once completed will spur HIP’s plans to develop fertilizer distribution both locally and for transshipment.
The port was able to increase RORO (roll on-roll off) volumes this year by introducing effective new strategies and the formation of partnerships with new RORO lines to bring transshipment cargo via HIP. The innovative approach resulted in the 500,000 units of small and large vehicles handled in 2021, amidst continuing challenges faced by the pandemic. The vehicles transshipped are mainly manufactured in India, Thailand, Japan and Korea and destined for Africa, the Middle East, Far East and South America.
Elaborating on the port’s success model, CEO Johnson Liu added, “Hambantota International Port with its mission to become a world-class seaport, is now operating across a number of business sectors not limited to RORO, Bulk and General Cargo. As per Sri Lanka Government requirements, the SLPA, Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lanka Police and Sri Lanka Customs operate within the port, overseeing its overall security. We at HIPG put in place a blue print titled ‘HIP Speed’ which is specifically designed to clear bottlenecks and build processes that do not stand in the way of implementing projects on time. Our deadline for completion of projects is much tighter due to this, which has helped us that much more to bring suitable investment to the port. We are ably supported now by two government agencies, the Board of Investment and the Industrial Development Board, who have offices at the Hambantota Maritime Center situated within the port. This would help us to smoothen the initial investment and implementation process and in turn build confidence among those who want to partner us in projects.”
Operationally the port has been fast tracking processes not only for its short-term needs, but looking to the future in terms of what infrastructure will be required to position port activity in the various sectors, for fast development under HIP Speed. The masterplan for the port is being followed meticulously and HIP is now in the process of developing upstream and downstream supply chains for the smooth operation of its industrial zone.
Until now, 42 enterprises have signed agreements with HIPG to enter the Industrial Park, of which 10 projects have already commenced construction. 8 new projects are to be signed soon, while another 15 projects with key potential are in the pipeline. The Hambantota port will be a symbol of the long-term friendship between Sri Lanka and China, and the CEO of HIPG says the China Merchants Group will continue to contribute to the economic development of the Hambantota region.