Colombo Port City: Born from the Ocean, now belongs to Sri Lanka

by | Jan 6, 2020

On December 07th 2019, 269 hectares of land reclaimed from the Indian Ocean, integrated with the capital city of Colombo, and was declared open as part of Sri Lanka.

The opening celebrations included Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse as the chief guest, a large crowd witnessing the ceremony, and a spectacular display of fireworks that impressed every spectator. A special commemorative stamp was also issued in lieu of the Colombo Port City opening.

On September 17th 2014, the CHECH Port City Colombo (Pvt) Ltd, together with the leaders of China and Sri Lanka, laid the foundation for the USD 1.5 billion Colombo Port City project and for the first time in the history of Port City, sandblasters blasted out sand on the sea bed. These sandblasters continued to function round the clock for five years until all the 269 hectares of land had been reclaimed to build a stunning Colombo Port City, which will be Sri Lanka’s financial and commercial hub. The five different districts of Port City will be as follows:

  • Financial District
  • Central Park Living
  • Island Living
  • The Marina
  • International Island

Current Status

If you’ve researched Colombo before planning your luxury tour in Sri Lanka, you’ve surely heard of Galle Face Green. Locals have made it a relaxing hangout spot – sitting on the grass or benches and taking in the fresh and cool breeze of the ocean while watching the Port City sandblasters work its way on their right. They would also see vehicles moving along the pathway, dredgers on their job round the clock without a break. There was always non-stop activity in that area.

Finally, on Jan 16, 2019, there were three long whistles, signaling that the last giant dredger had stopped scooping sand from the seabed and the land reclaiming task had come to an end. Jiang Houliang, the Managing Directory of CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt) Ltd. announced the end of the land reclamation, now that all 269 hectares had been done.

A 1.6km long stretch of artificial golden sand beach was opened at the Port City in April 2019. The yacht marina area has entered its final stage of creation and this will provide attractive water sports opportunities in Colombo in the future.

At Central Park, more than 400 new trees have been planted, bringing more greenery to the new city.

From the eyes of the employees at Port City:

  • An electromechanical engineer at Port City who studied and graduated from a Chinese university had to work outside of Sri Lanka due to a lack of job opportunities. Sanjeewa Alwis is now finally able to use his knowledge and skills to serve his hometown. He confidently said that “the development of the Port City will benefit the country, the people and our future generations”.
  • Razmin Sharhary who was hired as a receptionist before the ribbons for the Port City project was cut open in 2014, seems to be thrilled to believe that with her own hands, she has been a part of the process of adding “a new piece of land to Sri Lanka”!
  • Head of Commercial and Legal at this joint venture was involved in the project even before it was formally launched in 2010. He gleams with excitement to know that he can finally walk on the newly created land, and admire the prototype of what the Port City is going to look like in the future.
  • The Project Department recently had a slogan writing competition to express their feelings about the city’s future development, to be used as a slogan. It appears that every local employee has a beautiful perception in mind. Some slogans that came up were:
    • “A port of dreams and a city of the future”
    • “A city that brings happiness to the next generation”
    • “A developed, beautiful, and environmentally friendly city”

What Port City will look like in the future

  • “It is a completely new city that will nearly double the size of Colombo right now” –  said Janaka Wijesundara, a former director at Sri Lanka’s Urban Development Authority. “
  • Colombo Port City is designed to be a mini Singapore, its own business-friendly tax regime, and maybe a different legal system too.
  • In terms of population, Colombo Port City is looking at about 80,000 residents and another 0.25 million people commuting in and out every day.
  • Artistic prototypes of future Port City show a well-lit cityscape that can be compared to London’s Canary Wharf; definitely a world away from fading bungalows, modest temples and the towers of what Colombo is like today.
  • Dense high-rise buildings, along with lower-slung residential areas, and a mixture of parks and canals. To outline the city’s edge is a marina and the beach line.
  • In terms of size, Port City will have 21,000 apartment units and a five-time increment of currently available office space in Colombo (from 300,000 to 1.5 million square meters).
  • Colombo Port City can attract tech giants in leiu of becoming the most advanced smart city in Asia.
  • In an aim to achieve 100% environment friendliness, niche technologies that will be targeted are
    • Smart metering and building
    • Digital citizen ID
    • Food traceability
    • Renewable energy and management
    • Ubiquitous Wi-Fi
    • Smart waste management
    • Smart water system
    • Smart parking and security
    • Paperless city administration

Investment Opportunities

The Colombo Port City Project is Sri Lanka’s single largest Foreign Direct Investment. Upon completion, the Port City of Colombo will cover more than 5.6 million square meters of built space with top-notch design and standards, to offer the best living experience by the Indian Ocean. Fields of investment opportunities include:

  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Entertainment
  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Retail and office spaces
  • Integrated resort and Marina

December 07, 2019 – the opening of the port city for investments marks a special day in the development of the country. According to the Secretary of the Ministry of Urban Development, Housing and Water Supply, “this could be a major hub for the country’s economy”.

As an initiative to attract investments, the project office is looking forward to launch programs and organize seminars. The Sri Lankan Government wants to give investors in the Colombo Port City the green light to start work as soon as possible. If you have a city tour in Colombo lined up on your holiday itinerary, do include a visit to this beautiful location and imagine what it would be like to have your apartment/office space in Colombo Port City.

According to Senior Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister, the laws and investments that will soon be in place will create a vibrant financial city in the global region, which will accelerate economic growth and transform the business landscape in Sri Lanka. Since a large area of the project’s infrastructure has been completed, there is scope that full completion of the project will have remarkable potential for investments, and the potential to notch economic growth to over six percent in 2020 and the year after. He also said that an investment of approximately USD 400 million is expected for the construction of a residential, retail and office towers. After the laws governing land-mass and financial activity are looked into and sorted, more opportunities will arise.

Measures taken by the new government

In 2014, economic growth was around 7% but has dropped significantly to about 1.5% in the past year. In order to rectify this unacceptable situation, the new government has come about with a 5-year strategic plan which will trigger economic growth. There have also been measures taken to stabilize the Lankan Rupee and to get businesses to flourish – thereby making sure there is more money in people’s hands to make investments. Some strategies include maintaining unemployment at less than 4%, inflation to be kept at under 5% per annum, budget deficits at below 4%, and single-digit interest rates.

Furthermore, there is an introduction of new tax concessions so as to incentivize local businesses and to encourage foreigners to invest, consequently helping the creation of economic activity in the country. The government also hopes to commence renegotiations with the IMF and come up with a feasible program to accelerate economic growth parallel to the new development program put in place.

Why Sri Lanka?

In comparison to global projects such as Palm Jumeirah (UAE) and Marina Bay (Singapore), Colombo Port City is not large. Yet, it has the opportunity to be the best in the region. Hence the government is trying to strategize this and target Port City to all of South Asia.

  • When looking at concentric circles around the island of Sri Lanka, each represents only one hour of flying time from Bandaranaike International Airport.
  • Just by covering two circles, 5 southernmost provinces of India are covered; this means reaching a population of 450 million.
  • Adding another 30 minutes of flying time, Mumbai can be reached.
  • In 3.5 to 4 hours of flying time, cities like New Delhi, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Dubai can be targeted.
  • The void of a financial city between countries like Dubai and Singapore for example, can be filled by Sri Lanka due to its geographical location.
  • In terms of the Belt Road Initiative (BRI), Sri Lanka is right in the middle of shipping routes between Africa and Asia, and Europe and Asia, thereby making Colombo the top port in South Asia.
  • Colombo has been addressed as the most livable city in South Asia, according to statistics provided by Mercer.
  • Chief Marketing and Sales Officer of Port City says “Colombo is very good and beautiful”, but the kind of lifestyle in Port City is going to be a massive dive in comparison to present-day Colombo.
  • There is hope for the development of an interchange of expressways, thereby making transportation to any part of the country much easier.
  • Chairman of Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Wijayasuriya expressed that the Port City project has the potential to reduce the income gap between poor and rich in Sri Lanka, while also boosting economic growth.

In conclusion, the Colombo Port City project should be perceived as Sri Lanka having an opportunity to come up with one of the topmost cities in the world; something that every Lankan must be proud of. So don’t forget to inform your tour operator in Sri Lanka to add a visit to the construction site of Colombo Port City and get a feel of it for yourself!