Hambantota Harbour Dream come true
The concept of the project was first suggested by late DA Rajapaksa,
father of President Rajapaksa. But it did not materialize. Later the
idea came up time to time, raised in Parliament by many Mps.
Mahinda Rajapaksa inspecting the model of the harbour
It remained a suggestion but never saw the light of the day due to
many reasons, Sri Lanka Port Authority Chairman Dr Priyath Bandu
Wickrema says. In 2001, when the suggestion surfaced again, then
Government hired a foreign company to conduct a feasibility study to
assess the possibility of building a harbour.
The Company offered to do it free, but the end report said the
location, Hambantota is not at suitable to build a harbour. This brought
the whole project to a halt. When the matter again sprang up in 2004, it
was thrown aside with much opposition.
However, then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was not impressed by
the pessimistic attitude. He was determined to overcome the negative
reaction and proceed with it.
So it began. Prime Minister Rajapaksa hired a company, the same
company that offered its services free to conduct a feasibility study
whether Hambantota has a possible harbour point. A copy of the report
was sent to then Fisheries Minister Mangala Samaraweera.
According to the report the cost of the ‘kick off’ or first meeting
after the signing of the contract will be close to US $2 million.
Even a “Sun Bathing Area” was to be built. When these points were
mentioned the Minister seemed uninterested. He was quite astounded about
spending US $ Two million on a kick off meeting, and the project got
shelved Bandu Wickrama said.
Dr Wickrema along with a few trusted colleagues were positive about
the possibility of building a small harbour. Plans were made, sketches
were drawn. It is the very same design that is followed in building the
current harbour, though in a much larger scale.
Tour to China
of the project. File photo
Dr. Wickrema finally took his proposal to the new President Mahinda
Rajapaksa in 2006.China was chosen to fund the harbour project. Why not
India? Some questioned, and the reason was simple as it was logical.
When Sri Lanka made an open request for funding, China was the first to
During the President’s tour to China, the Hambantota Harbour was one
of the three main loan proposals to be requested by Sri Lanka. Despite
this, it was discovered at the last moment that the harbour proposal was
not even included in the documents.
However, the President made a bold step by initiating talks with
China and finally he managed to secure their support for the project.
It was in 2007 that the contract was signed and the foundation stone
was laid on October 30. A colossal effort was put behind the project.
One of the main problems was moving out the residents. The harbour
location being around 200 hectares of land it would displace quite a
number of families.
But even with 450 families to be relocated, Dr Wickrema said it went
smoother than expected even without a Court order. Chamal Rajapaksa was
instrumental in this. He went to the people, discussed their problems
and reassured their well-being. Impact
The harbour will bring many advantages to Sri Lanka boosting the
The Singapore Ambassador in Sri Lanka when touring the site said:
“We’d better find ourselves another job”. Sri Lanka being at the very
epicentre of trade routes will be able to accommodate even the largest
of ships and cater to their needs.
Construction work at the harbour site
Picture by Hindogama group correspondent
Our neighbouring India will also find the harbour useful. In
transporting goods from India’s west side to its east, sea
transportation is much less expensive than transporting over land.
So inevitability Sri Lanka will come in handy. Many have raised the
question whether the Hambantota harbour would replace the Colombo
Harbour. The answer is no.While the Colombo Harbour is used by ships
carrying containers, the Hambantota harbour will serve a different
It possesses the space that Colombo does not have to act as a service
providing point. Crude oil, food stuffs, goods, vehicle parts and many
more things can be stored in the Harbour itself, leaving endless
potential and innumerable possibilities. Dr Wickrema said the method
that will be used to fill the harbour is used for the first time in Sri
He also said it would take 20 days to fill the harbour basin fully.
The day that Sri Lanka will be lifted to a new level in development is
not far. After a mere two and a half years of construction, the Harbour
will be opened by November 2010.