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Hambantota Port, Sri Lanka

Hambantota, Sri Lanka




2 years


$415m (£306m today)


Sri Lanka
Project achievements

Economy boosted

Build shipping berths and breakwaters

Solved the problem

Reduce pressure on the busy port of Colombo

Used engineering skill

Thousands of construction jobs will be created

Build a port to serve shipping routes between Asia and Europe

Hambantota Port is an inland port built in a natural harbour near the town of Hambantota, in Southern Province, Sri Lanka.

The port is still under construction. When completed, it will be Sri Lanka’s largest port after Colombo, in the country’s Western Province.

Hambantota bosses claim the finished harbour will be the biggest built on land so far this century.

Sri Lanka sits on the key shipping route between the Malacca Straits and the Suez Canal, which links Asia and Europe. Around 36,000 ships – including 4,500 oil tankers – use the route every year.

As Colombo caters mainly for container ships, the Sri Lankan government decided to build Hambantota to provide other services to international shipping - including refuelling, repair work and facilities for changing crews.

The first phase of the scheme opened in November 2010, with the ceremonial berthing of the naval ship ‘Jetliner’ to use the port’s facilities. Planned expansion will bring Hambantota’s capacity up to 20m TEUs a year.

A TEU is a ‘twenty-foot equivalent unit’, an approximate unit of cargo capacity. It’s based on the volume of a 20 foot (6.1m) long container – a standard-size metal box used to ship goods on ships, train or trucks.

Hambantota Port is also known as Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa port, after a former Sri Lankan president.

"Hambantota Port, gateway to the world.”

SUNDAY OBSERVER, Sri Lanka’s Largest Circulation English Newspaper, 21 February 2010.

Hambantota Port

Engineer Tara McCully, talks us through what Hambantota Port in South Shrilanka has to offer. It is situated on the main shipping route between Asia and Europe and will occupy a staggering 4000 acres on completion making it the biggest port in South Asia.

Did you know …

  1. The completed port is set to cover 4,000 acres with facilities for berthing 33 vessels at a time. This would make it the biggest harbour in South Asia.

  2. As port bosses have gone to great lengths to protect local wildlife, Hambantota is probably the only harbour in the world where you can see deer and peacocks roaming freely.

  3. Around 85% of the port’s construction costs have been met by the Export–Import Bank of China. The state-backed bank provides funding to promote the export of Chinese goods and services.

Difference the project has made

The new port reduces pressure on Colombo, currently the busiest port in the country.

Hambantota provides services to ships that would normally need to take a three-and-a-half-day detour to refuel or buy provisions and medical supplies.

Construction of the port will provide employment for an estimated 50,000 people. It’s hoped job opportunities will encourage migration to the area - reducing population pressures in surrounding districts.

How the work was done

Construction work on the port has seen engineers building facilities for refuelling, four berths for ships and two breakwaters – 312m and 988m long - to protect the harbour.

The breakwaters used material excavated from the construction of other parts of the port – saving costs of transporting and disposing of the waste.

Other key parts of the scheme saw project workers dig an access channel for the port 210m wide and 17m deep.

The channel can be used by vessels of up to 100,000 dead weight tonnage (DWT). DWT is a measure of how much weight a ship can carry – including cargo, fuel, passengers and crew.

The project has included the construction of a tank farm – also known as an oil depot. The depot includes eight tanks for marine fuel, three for aviation fuel and three for liquid petroleum gas (LPG). LPG is used for cooking, heating and for fuelling vehicles.

Plans for future work include a dam to prevent flooding in nearby areas and a seawall of interlocking concrete blocks to protect the port from high seas.

People who made it happen

  • Client: Sri Lanka Ports Authority
  • Construction engineers: China Harbour Engineering Company, Sinohydro Corporation

More about this project