Elevated port access road project: 60% of work completed - Official | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Elevated port access road project: 60% of work completed - Official

23 July, 2023

Sri Lanka had made an infamous reputation as a country that commissions donor funded projects hosting mega ceremonies and then abandoning them midway creating huge black marks to its history.

These irresponsible moves have resulted in Sri Lanka having to pay huge damages to foreign contractors’ and its ‘Dining Business index’ ranking being lowered. This also results in foreign investors shunning away from investing in Sri Lanka.

A recent example of a ‘mid way project dumping in Sri Lanka style’ was the Colombo Port City project where the Chinese investors were forced to abandon the project after a change of government.

Renegotiations were carried out and the project restarted after almost one year resulting in Sri Lanka having to pay a large amount of compensation and the worthy project was delayed by over a year.

The much awaited light railway project with Japan too was cancelled while several foreign funded irrigation and airport expansion projects too stalled. A similar fate awaited the elevated port access road project from Ingurukade Junction to the Colombo Port City with Chinese investors. Since the commencement of the project by Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) they were never supported by authorities and there were major hiccups resulting in huge delays.

Minister of Transport and Highways Dr. Bandula Gunawardane, Wang Xiangdong, Vice President of CCECC,  and senior officials during the inspection tour. Pic: Sulochana Gamage

The Covid 19 pandemic and the economic crisis that followed in Sri Lanka also delayed the project and it was about to be shut down and another black mark was to be added to the Sri Lankan project history.

“While we did carry out or project during the pandemic on a staggered basis during the economic crisis we faced huge issues in importing raw material and then locally faced the scarcity of fuel and long power cuts,” said Vice President of CCECC, Wang Xiangdong, in an interview with Sunday Observer Business.

“The rupee devaluation too was a major setback to our smooth progress.”

He said that they also faced other access issues during construction as they had to go through the Colombo Port for construction. “It was very difficult to obtain permission to access the Colombo Port which is a high security zone.”

Xiangdong also said that they had to take considerable time during the construction so as not to damage the underground telecom and electricity cable and sewerage network which is over 100 years old.”

New technologies

He said that they used novel techniques used globally for this construction and they had over 500 concrete towers built. “We also employed around 1,300 Chinese engineers in the initial stages and they were brought down towards 2023 and more local staff were employed.

“We also shared our technology with the local staff and this will be a great advantage for their future.”

He said due to using advanced technologies the site never has a single safety issue and there were no injuries to staff or other property.

He, however, said that though several Governments changed resulting in new Ministers being appointed for Road Development they had a very cordial relationship with all of them. “These Ministers were very supportive but despite this the progress was slow and we could only achieve around 10% of our targets for nearly three years.”

He said that the project received a major injection of hope when they had a meeting with the new Minister of Transport and Highways, Dr. Bandula Gunawardane.

“He understood our true position and the issues we faced and went out of his way to speak to other Ministers where our project came in contact with. This coordination brought us a dramatic change to our project and during the last few months we were able to complete about 60% of our project.”

“Now I am confident to state that the much awaited and long overdue project would be completed and handed over to the Government by December next year,” he said.

This 5.2 kilometre stretch will not only link the Colombo Port with the Sri Lanka highway network but also the Colombo Port City creating transportation history in Sri Lanka.

He said that the elevated port access road from Ingurukade Junction will have two entry points one at the Gate one of the Colombo Port and the second director to the Colombo Port city and have provision to add more exits in the future if needed.

The project started on September 27, 2019 and the initial estimated cost of this project was USD 360.2 million. The Asian Development Bank had pledged USD 300 million while the remaining USD 60.2 million was to be provided by the government of Sri Lanka. He said that due to high construction costs they had to increase the project costs and the Government has acknowledged that and has granted approval for it.

Minister Dr. Gunawardene visits project

Transport Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardene while on an observation tour to the elevated port access road last week said that though the highway link is only around five kilometres it took time first because it went through the Colombo Port and secondly it was totally built on pliers and due to other logistical issues. 

The Minister also said that as a part of the contract, CCECC will also build an administrative complex for the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and that too would be ready by 2024 end.

The Minister stressed that the delay in the project by almost three years was never due to lack of funds but due to logistical issues.

Engineer of the project,  K. W. Kandamby who is a livewire in the project coordinating between the line Ministries, said that the Chinese company was about to leave the project since they have had enough of facing red tape in gaining access to several venues. “Minister Dr. Gunawardane played a key role in ironing out these issues and now the Chinese Company is very happy with the progress and thanks the Minister Dr. Gunawardane for his medication and the manner in which these issues were ironed out,” he said.

Kandamby who joined the project only 18 months ago and brought about a positive change also said that the Chinese company too should be lauded for staying in Sri Lanka and going ahead with the project despite several obstacles.