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Colombo Port City celebrates 7 th Anniversary today

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Sri Lankans biggest privately funded development, Colombo Port City (CPC) which will help to elevate Sri Lanka to its next level will be celebrating 7 years of its existence today. (17).

The project was inaugurated by its brainchild former President and now Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Colombo Port City (CPC) is the second gambit of China’s BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) to expand its Economic horizons into Asia, Middle East, Africa and East-Europe. Xi Jinping envisages that the CPC will eventually replace HK as a ‘financial centre’ and also become a “commercial centre” for South Asia what Singapore is presently for South East Asia.

The Colombo Port city which is building a city within the city has also changed the geographic map of Sri Lanka by adding around 250 hectares to her landscape. The construction of the CPC initiated by the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) a part of China Communications Construction Company Limited (CCCC) clearing the environmental concerns progressed smoothly and on schedule.

CCCC is the world leader in port design and construction, road and bridge design and construction, dredging, container crane and heavy machinery manufacturing. In addition, CCCC is also vastly experienced in building construction and is a major real estate investor and developer. CHEC Port City Colombo (Private) Limited (the Project Company) is a BOI approved Company specifically set up for the purpose of making a foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Colombo Port City Project.

Port City Colombo is a brand new city development built as an extension of the Central Business District of Sri Lanka’s vibrant commercial capital, Colombo. Spanning 269 hectares of reclaimed land from the sea, Port City Colombo will be South Asia’s premiere residential, retail and business destination, offering unmatched planned city living along the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The development will comprise 5 different precincts including the Financial District, Central Park Living, Island Living, The Marina and the International Island.

When completed, Port City Colombo will have over 5.6 million square meters of built space, boasting the best in design and standards. Its lifestyle and business offerings will include world-class facilities and spaces in Healthcare, Education, Entertainment, Hotels and Restaurants, Retail and Office with an Integrated Resort and a Marina, offering the best in living by the sea. Built on the latest sustainable city designs and smart city concepts, Port City Colombo will be the most livable city in South Asia.

“We have commissioned Surbana Jurong to prepare detailed Design Control Regulations (DCR). All development within Port City will need to adhere to the conditions stipulated in the DCR including certain parameters related to building design and specifications. Also the Port City Master Plan, once approved by the UDA, can only be changed by mutual consultation and agreement between the Project Company and the GOSL,” an engineer from CPC said.

Construction halted by the government

However when the Yahapalana government came into power all these changed. Not being able to read the huge economic, social and other benefits the CPC would usher not only to Sri Lanka but to the entire South Asia the then government brought several uncalled-for issues to the table and halted the construction not for a few weeks but for an entire year sabotaging the progress of the project.

In March 2015, the Project Company was informed that the GOSL wished to suspend the project construction and review the licenses obtained prior to commencing construction. The onus of obtaining and providing the relevant environmental approvals lies with the GOSL as per the signed Concession Agreement. Thereafter, in order to address the shortcomings of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of 2012 carried out by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, a comprehensive Supplementary Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) was carried out in 2015 by the Ministry of Megapolis, involving over 25 experts from many fields and reputed institutions. The builder also sought legal action and finally the construction began at snail pace.

CPC Special Economic Zone

In a bid to better administration facilities for the Colombo Port City Sri Lanka passed a special bill in Parliament which will establish Colombo Port City Special Economic Zone and Colombo Port City Economic Commission. Acting Director General of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Saliya Wickramasuriya was quoted as saying that the commission could not find anything about the Port City, which impinges on another country’s security. “Nothing to that effect has been articulated by any party yet.

Colombo cannot become a destination that appeals to the international businesses or tourists with ad-hoc developments. Colombo Port City (CPC) provides an opportunity for the old and historic part of Colombo’s Central Business District (CBD) to interface as a modern planned metropolis. Accordingly, the key objectives of reclaiming 269 hectares of land are: To create a regional business hub, with high quality public spaces and infrastructure facilities, To create a tourism hub with attractions such as shopping, culture and entertainment, Foster integrated living to provide high quality residential facilities and amenities such as parks, water sports, schools, hospitals etc. and To generate investments in real estate development and service sector jobs.

Already due to the commencement of the Port City land prices as well as apartment prices have increased, ushering tangible benefits to the economy. Foreigners too can own residential condominium properties. The local law relating to foreigners owning residential properties or land applicable anywhere in Sri Lanka are applicable within Port City as well.

At the moment, local banks could lend up to 40% of the value of the property to a foreigner. The remainder should be funded by foreign currency inward remittance.

Open to public

The port city will not be shut out from the general public. Apart from the many thousands of jobs that will be generated, the general public can enjoy a 3 km long artificial beach, water sports and 45 hectare(ha) of parks, which will be around 9 times larger than Galle Face Green and all other public spaces incorporated into the master plan.

One of the other concerns of the development was the outcome of Galle Face Green roughly an area of 5.7 ha. The Port City will create around 45 ha of park lands and a 13 ha artificial beach area, all for use by the general public. It is expected that the public spaces of Port City will have better facilities and layouts for small scale entrepreneurs and vendors than the present Galle Face. A Breakwater is being built + 4m from mean sea level. The Breakwater is designed to protect the Port City from rising sea levels and high waves. In addition, the Project Company will build 45 hectares of public parks and an artificial beach of around 3 km. No Industrial activities will be allowed within Port City. Many also say that due to high paid jobs that are on offer the project will also help to reverse the brain drain in Sri Lanka.

Investments open to all

The Colombo Port city investments are open to Sri Lankans as well and Browns Investments PLC entered into a landmark agreement with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to commence the Colombo International Finance Centre mixed development project, which will involve an investment of $ 450 million.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Ceylon Chamber investment summit said that his government aims to attract 15 billion US dollars to Colombo Port City project in the next five years.

“Attracting Foreign Direct Investment is a key priority for our Government, and this landmark project is a strong indicator that Sri Lanka is now back in business,” Prime Minister Rajapaksa said. World-renowned financier and a member of the Rothschild family, Nathaniel Rothschild who was in Sri Lanka for a brief business tour, paid a visit to the Port City – Colombo and was impressed with it. The Rothschild family is well-known for their diversified business around the world, including the famous Rothschild Bank and Port Montenegro, a luxury yacht and residential project in the Adriatic Sea.

The visit concluded with Rothschild’s positive remarks on the project and several other global investors also visited the City. Yamuna Jayaratne, Director Sales and Marketing for Port City Colombo said, “Sri Lanka already enjoys a 70 to 80 % advantage in the cost of doing business in comparison with established and mature services hubs such as Hong Kong and Dubai. The enactment of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill will serve to further enhance this cost advantage; but more importantly serve to address investor pain points such as efficient and timely dispute resolution and administrative efficiency in terms of approvals etc. This improved ease of doing business; coupled with cost advantages, geographic location and the quality of life on offer in Sri Lanka would serve as a first step in creating a compelling value proposition for investors. Therefore, we are very confident that the Port City Colombo will be a catalyst for FDIs into the country.”

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa inspected the progress of Port City Colombo giving a thumbs up to investors.

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