COLOMBO, August 4, 2013 (AFP) – A $500 million Chinese-built port opens Monday in Sri Lanka, giving Beijing a vital foothold on the world’s busiest international shipping lane as it seeks to secure maritime supply routes. Hambantota, which is just 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) away from the East-West sea lane, is being promoted as a key service centre and industrial port where large ships can re-fuel or take on fresh food.
In April, Colombo’s port is due to open another mega terminal just next to the Chinese-managed CICT. The new addition will initially be able to handle about 800,000 containers a year, according to the SLPA.
Professor Tsz Leung Yip, head of the International Centre for Maritime Studies at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said Chinese expertise coupled with Colombo’s strategic location would make Sri Lanka a key stop-over for international carriers who want to avoid the threat posed by Somali pirates operating off the Gulf of Aden.
“In the presence of Somalia pirates, it is safer for ships (from the Far East to Europe) to stop over at Sri Lanka and head to Cape of Good Hope, without calling at Dubai port,” he told AFP. The massive terminal in Colombo is located mid-way on the lucrative east-wes