Bunkering operations at the Hambantota port at its newly built $95 million ship fuelling unit in the port will begin next month with an initial capacity of 55,000 tonnes.
Sri Lanka Ports Authority Chairman (SLPA) Priyath Wickrama said that everything is tested and the first consignment will be getting most probably in the first week of June.
The unit will initially handle 55,000 tonnes of shipping fuel with eight tanks and is expected to add a further 100,000 tonnes in a second phase. Dr. Wickrama said it could be expanded up to 650,000 tonnes depending on the demand, but gave no details.
The SLPA is targeting 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes of sales in the first year and then to expand it to 1 million tonnes per annum within five years, Dr. Wickrama said. He said another 3.5 million tonnes of capacity could be built up for fuel and transshipments in the future. China’s Exim Bank loaned 85 percent of the $77 million original estimated cost for the first phase. However, the SLPA was forced to borrow a further $18 million from the state-run Bank of Ceylon. The SLPA will operate the bunkering unit through its fully owned private firm Magampura Port Management Company.
Hambantota Port is located at a strategic location along an ancient “silk route” for trade and one of the world’s biggest East-West shipping lanes. Dr. Wickrama said the port is operating as a transshipment point for vessels from India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Thailand to the Middle East and Africa. On average, 25 vessels call at the port every month.
However, Wickrama said the port’s business activities will pick up with bunkering and eight new berths in the second phase, which is expected to be completed by 2015.