The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) is planning to form a consortium with Indian firms to bid for Indian port projects, newspaper reports say. The SLPA is a government agency responsible for the development and maintenance of all commercial ports in Sri Lanka; insiders are watching the developments with great interest and some suspicion in India.
“We are in talks with a few Indian companies to partner us for investing in projects in India. We are interested in many of the port projects that the Indian government is planning such as the fourth container terminal at JNPT and others,” SLPA’s chairman Priyath Wickrama told the Economic Times.
Although discussions are reported to be at the initial stages, some Indian Industry experts are sounding a note of caution, saying that the SLPA- a competitor from a country with close links to China- may try to stymie the growth of the Indian port sector. The SLPA is also mindful of the fact that getting security clearances will be difficult for them.
“It’s premature at the moment. But, if they manage to bid for projects, they will have to receive clearance from various ministries and that could be a challenge, especially since China is the biggest investor in port projects in Sri Lanka,” an unnamed Indian government official told the newspaper.
Hemant Bhattbhatt, Director at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, added another note of caution, “The new transhipment hub in Cochin and Vizhinjam Port are seen as direct competition to Colombo Port which has been expanding largely due to the cargo from India. In such a scenario, there’s no valid reason for Sri Lanka to invest in Indian port projects as it would only hamper their projects. There could be an ulterior motive behind their intention.”