In The Press

Best of all cities


Colombo Port City

When it comes to cities built on man made lands, United Arab Emirates (UAE) has Palm Jumeriah and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). Qatar has its own Pearl while Singapore has Marina Bay. All these world-class cities built on blocks of reclaimed land would no doubt seek competition from the emerging Colombo International Financial City (CIFC) of Sri Lanka upon its completion in 2041.

According to latest World Bank (WB) data, the UAE, Qatar and Singapore had been categorized as countries with ‘High Income’ along with a Gross National Income (GNI) per Capita of USD 43,170, USD 85,430 and USD 52,090 respectively.

Sri Lanka, which is classified by the WB as a ‘Lower Middle Income’ country for the year 2016 with a GNI per Capita as low as USD 3,800, is probably the only country to own a star class city built on a reclaimed land.

“We want to create a world class city for the South Asian region in Sri Lanka by way of creating the Port City,” said Liang Thow Ming, the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of the CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt.) Ltd, which is carrying out the constructions of the USD 15 billion mega project.

Ming expressed these views upon meeting a team of local media delegation at China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) office in Beijing.

Explaining the master plan of the CIFC, formerly known as the Port City, he said that they want to lift Colombo to the same level of top metropolitan cities in the world such as Singapore, Dubai and Tokyo and also expects to make Colombo a stopover destination for tourists.

He said the construction of the land could be completed by the middle of 2019 and that they were hoping to complete 50 percent of the physical construction on the reclaimed land by 2020.

Once completed, the city would be divided into five precincts; Central Park Living with a channel and open areas, Financial District, International Island, The Marina and Island Living. Due to the strategic location of Sri Lanka and that of the Port City, is slated to play a vital role in China’s One Belt and One Road (OBOR) initiative, the massive network system which brings together 63 percent of the world population, 35 percent of world’s merchandise trade and 30 percent of global Gross Domestic Production (GDP).

The 269-hectare island is to host 250,000 of a population creating 83,000 new employment opportunities. “The public spaces allocated from the island span through 52 hectares and a swimming lagoon of 109 hectares will also be endowed to the public,” Ming said.

A large portion, 23 percent, of the reclaimed island is to be allocated for residential use, 20 percent for mixed use, 19 percent for public streets and facilities and 10 percent each for commercial use and parks.

Master plan

The planning process for the Port City will be carried out under three stages; Analysis and conceptual master plan, Schematic master plan design and Detailed master plan. Three main sight lines with wide boulevards to reduce wind tunnel effects, a central park within the heart of the land and integrated green paths and waterways to promote walking, cycling and water transport are some of the key features of this Port City master plan.

Keeping up with Transit Oriented Development (TOD) model, plans have been made to carefully place skyscrapers and low height buildings to preserve the iconic skyline of the city. The skyscrapers would be massed towards the mainland of the city while the height of the buildings would be decreased gradually as they reach the waterfront.

“We have made sure the Port City is a nice modern city which is not developed in a haphazard manner. Building heights will be controlled to prevent extreme difference in heights of the buildings. The height of the building will increase towards the main island,” he said.

As the time line proceeds, development work are to be commenced next year while the marine structures and reclamation works are scheduled to be completed in 2019. By 2020, the initial infrastructure works and the channel are to be completed. The Beach, Marina and the Central Park are scheduled to be completed by 2021.One of the core features of the city, the International Financial Centre is slated to be open by 2023. The International school would be completed by 2024 while the medical centre and the convention and exhibition centre are to be completed by 2026.

Separate precincts

The five main precincts of Central Park Living, Financial District, International Island, The Marina and Island Living would have its own personality. Each of these five zones has a major role to play and together, they make the city alive.

The main attraction of the Central Park Living is the Central Park, the green heart of the city. This precinct consists of a channel, pavilions and open blocks.

The Financial District is the commercial and retail destination of the port city with high density. A linear park, commercial boulevard and office complexes will make the most of the financial city.

On the other hand, the International Island which is scattered across 113 hectares will comprise of an integrated resort, an international school, convention centre and medical facilities.

Marina promontory, marina park and marina village are the attractions of The Marina while the Island Living will focus more on villa living and the city beach.


Unlike Colombo, where thousands of private vehicles roam in and around the city surpassing public transport services, Ming said public transport would be given prominence in the port city. An elevated Light Rail Transit (LRT) system would be the main source of transport within the new city. The LRT system would be integrated with the proposed Colombo Fort Multi Model Transport Hub.

The port city would be adhered to Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) principles. The TOD model in urban planning is maximizing easy access to public transport from commercial, mixed use and residential areas.

The master plan of the Port City includes a central boulevard which accommodates the LRT stations placed 800 metres apart from one another to serve the majority of port city population within 400 meters of radius.

Two major roads would be expanded from the port city towards the main island; one road towards the Marine Drive through a tunnel and another elevated expressway connecting the southern expressway and the Colombo-Katunayake expressway.

One of the key and novel features of the Port City in terms of transport would be road infrastructure which would encourage walking and cycling instead of the use of privately owned vehicles. City planners expect to reduce air pollution by way of encouraging walking and cycling. In contrast of an average city, where private vehicles would be given high priority, the port city will give prominence to pedestrians, bicycles and public transport respectively. Vehicles owned by individual would be given the lowest priority.

In China, especially in major cities like Shanghai and Beijing, people could be seen using bicycles as their main transport method regularly. Bicycles are provided for the commuters free of charge for the first hour and no one is being judged for peddling a bicycle to work clad in a blazer.

In Port City, you will be able to hire a bicycle and ride along the city leisurely or even go to your place of employment by yourself and to supermarket without being ushered to.

Apart from main carriage ways running opposite directions to carter vehicles, a main road would consist of two pedestrian walkways and two bicycle lanes.

Smart City Planning

Ming said they were also having discussions with advanced IT firms to develop the port city as a smart city so as to ensure that the city would be operated even more efficiently.

Ming said a project similar to the present Port City had been in the works way back in 2002. “Then Prime Minister, who is also the now Prime Minister initiated a study with a Singapore Company to do a city development project which include a land reclamation of about 160 hectares at the exact same location where we are reclaiming the land right now for the Colombo Port City project. The difference is the previous project envisaged to include the today’s Jaya Terminal as well in the city. However, the present project is a bigger project which does not include the Jaya terminal.

In 2004, a proposal for the project came in. Then, in 2010, the SLPA took initiative to relaunch this project and the rest is history. The project is an investment of Rs. 1.4 billion just in reclamation and construction itself. About 99 hectares of the reclaimed land would be utilized for public use, and development of infrastructure while the rest of the land would be utilized in State development such as residential, hospital, commercial and few other services.”

Meanwhile, a revised tripartite agreement with the Sri Lankan Government, the UDA and the CHEC was signed in August 12, 2016 with halted construction of the project resuming in September, 2016.

About 116 acres of the total land would be leased out by CHEC for 99 years while 62 hectares would be allocated to the government for development projects. “The government has the ownership of all lands,” Ming said.


The CHEC said they were seeking consultations from a number of firms for the development of the Port City.

“We have sought expertise from SWECO engineering firm and AECOM, an American engineering and architect firm.

Swedish architectural firm, SWECO helped us develop the master plan. We are doing all studies thoroughly to make sure not to erode any of the beaches for the benefit of the fishermen,” he said.

Engineering firm ATKINS, Singaporean Consultancy Company Surbana Jurong, Jones Lang Leslie, CB Richard Ellis, Ogilvy & Mathers, Wordsearch, Pinsent Masons and Price Waterhouse Coopers are some of the other foreign consultant firms involved in the project.

Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau, National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency, Lanka Hydraulics Institute, Moratuwa and Peradeniya Universities are some of the local consultants for the Port City.

Ming said the Port City would not only focus on the Sri Lankan market but also the whole South Asian market including that of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. “The four countries including Sri Lanka host 7 billion people of the entire world but not all of them can afford to buy an apartment in port city. We are trying to lift Colombo to the level of other world class cities such as Singapore,” he said.

FeaturesThe central integrated resort which aims at leisure, an international medical centre with world class hospitals, top international schools, international convention and exhibition centres, international financial centres, retail destination, hospitality and the marina are some of the key features of the new city.

Ming said the structure before and after the suspension generally stays the same and that there were no racing tracks when the project was initially started and there are none now. He said the existing laws of Sri Lanka would be applied to the Port City as well.

Addressing concerns about environmental issue, Ming said before the suspension of the project, there were a lot of misconceptions rather than actual reports of damages to the environment.

“If you ask me, every construction project has some damage. It’s a matter of how you manage and solve these impacts. Basically the misconception of the damage rumoured was far worse than the actual damage which would be incurred by the environment because of port city. From the suspension to when it was lifted, what we have done was provide additional reports to satisfy the government and to ensure that the project itself does not cause environmental damage as many alleged. With new reports, the government was satisfied that we are in fact on track where the environment is concerned,” he said.

All in all, the Port City will give Sri Lankans and the world an unforgettable experience by bringing together the best features of all cities built on recreational lands. It will have a financial centre like the DIFC, it will have hotels at the Marina Bay and it will have the residential spaces similar to that of Palm Jumeriah and Pearl. The Port City will bring the best of all cities.