In The Press

Port City to resume construction in full swing from mid-July


A nursery is being developed in the middle of CPC to be utilised in the proposed central park
Pic by Pradeep Pathirana

Says measures in place to expedite construction to meet set deadline
Stresses adherence to strict health and safety regulations
Phase one infrastructure development currently underway to be completed in August, next year

Says Port City was only construction site that functioned during last 3 months

By Nishel Fernando
The construction activities of the multibillion dollar Colombo Port City (CPC) is expected to resume work in full swing from mid-July onwards, as more workers return to work with the gradual easing of COVID-19-related restrictions in Sri Lanka.

The state officials as well as the senior officials of the project company, CHEC Port City Colombo, during a media tour to CPC yesterday assured that measures are in place to accelerate the construction activities of the project to meet the set deadlines while adhering to strict health and safety regulations.

CHEC Port City Colombo is currently undertaking phase one infrastructure development activities, which are scheduled to be completed in August 2021, following the completion of the reclamation of 269 hectares of land from the sea, early last year.

CPC, which is estimated to attract US $ 15 billion FDI into the country, is considered a key project in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

As the government imposed an islandwide curfew on March 20, to contain the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country, the project company was forced to slow down the construction activities significantly, with over 1000 employees heading back to their hometowns.

The number of employees fell below 500, including the 290 Chinese employees, from 1600.

Although at smaller scale, the project officials said work had been continuing, despite the imposed COVID-19-related restrictions, following the health and safety protocols, which were aimed at protecting workers.

“We were the only construction site in the country, which was functioning uninterruptedly during the past three months, while all others closed down their operations. However, we maintained strict controls to protect all resident employees,” a CHEC Port City official noted.

Following the gradual relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions from mid-May, CPC Project Manager attached to the Urban Development, Water Supply and Housing Facilities Ministry, Bimal Prabhath Gonaduwage said the government advised the project company to expedite the development activities.

Following the gradual relaxation of the travel restrictions, the number of workers at CPC has increased to 630 workers and the construction activities of six out of 17 sites are moving ahead, on a priority basis. CHEC Port City Colombo officials noted that the returning workers are being sent to a quarantine centre for four days while they undergo two PCR tests, before allowing back in the construction zone.

Further, they emphasised that the project company is strictly following the 47 guidelines issued for the construction sector by the government, which include precautionary measures such as temperature checks, social distancing and mandatory face coverings.

Further, the officials said that only the essential workers are allowed at the project premises while 300 other employees, who don’t need to be physically present at the site, are working from home. The project company expects all 1600 employees to be back in work by mid or end-July.

“By end of June, we think that the government will declare that Sri Lanka is free of COVID-19. In such case, by mid to end of July, we can go back into full function,” a company official told Mirror Business.

From July onwards, the company may also look to hire more employees to complete the phase one infrastructure development by August, next year, as per the original schedule.

CHEC Port City Colombo, a unit of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), has committed to invest US $ 1.4 billion in land reclamation and infrastructure development.

It has already invested US $ 800 million in land reclamation activities.However, the company is likely to see its expenditure on infrastructure development increasing from the estimates, as the infrastructure development activities slowed down due to the lockdown.

Meanwhile, CHEC Port City is also formulating plans to recommence commercial activities at CPC, to attract investors for real estate developments. CHEC Port City Colombo was earlier planning to kick off the global launch of CPC for investors at World Cities Summit 2020, in Singapore, this July. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the global event has been postponed to next year. Once the phase one infrastructure development is completed, the company expects to commence key real estate development activities. CCCC has already pledged to invest US $ 1 billion in a mixed development complex in the proposed financial district of CPC, to boost investor confidence in the project.

At least, the construction of a yacht marina and a US $ 400 million mixed development project financed by CCCC, is scheduled to commence within this year.

Of CPC’s 269 hectares of reclaimed land, 178 hectares are considered to be marketable. CCCC owns 116 hectares of the marketable land on a 99-year lease and the government owns the remaining 62 hectares. In addition, 91 hectares of land are allocated to be used as public spaces.

According to an independent study carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), CPC is expected to contribute US $ 11.8 billion to Sri Lanka’s economy per annum, upon completion in 2041.