May 01, 2012 (LBO) - China Merchants Holdings International which is building a deep-water container terminal in Colombo port is interested in investing in other Sri Lankan ports as well, an official said.
Hu Jianhua, managing director of CMHI, said the Chinese port operator was drawn to the island because of its "strategic advantages" like location, access to south Asia, open economy and literate labour force.
China Merchants is investing 500 million US dollars to build and operate a container terminal that will have a capacity of 2.4 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent container units).
China Merchants intends to use its investment to modernise the port and improve its competitiveness, Hu told the Southern Asia Ports, Logistics and Shipping 2012 conference in Colombo.
Sri Lanka's advantages and attractive location on the main East-West shipping route "convinced us we should invest in Colombo and in future other ports of Sri Lanka as well," Hu said.
China has emerged as Sri Lanka's main supplier of aid and investment in recent years with a Chinese consortium building a deep-water port in southern Hambantota, a near-by international airport and roads, rail tracks and power stations.
Sri Lanka's advantages make it a strong contender to be developed as a modern port with the right investment and support of an international port operator, Hu said.
Investment by a major port operator would help improve Colombo port's competitive position as its existing water depth was not enough to handle bigger ships and its capacity was near saturation, he added.
"If Sri Lanka wants to keep its competitive position, well-equipped container terminals and modern procedures are badly needed."