Hoisting sails for next journey | Sunday Observer
Port City Colombo celebrates 7th anniversary

Hoisting sails for next journey

19 September, 2021

Port City Colombo marked its seventh anniversary on September 17. Sri Lanka’s most ambitious project to date is set to embark on a journey that brings rewarding economic prospects for the country.

The seven-year journey has not been a smooth sail for Port City as it was met with many a storm along the way. However, it marked several milestones and achievements to keep Sri Lanka’s hopes up for a brighter future.

Sri Lanka’s biggest foreign investment of US$ 1.4 billion from the China Communication Constructions Company (CCCC) through China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), has so far kept to its projected timeline in completing the various stages of construction in this massive plan spanning 25 years.

Port City Colombo is a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), connecting 171 countries and international organisations from South-East Asia to Eastern Europe and Africa, in a global infrastructure development campaign.

However, the concept of a reclaimed land for economic activities was first originated before the BRI, when President Mahinda Rajapaksa envisioned it as early as 2006. Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the ambitious BRI only in 2013. Port City Colombo constructions were launched jointly by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Chinese President Xi Jinping on September 17, 2014.

Livable city

Port City Colombo spans 269 hectares of reclaimed land from the sea. It aims to be South Asia’s premiere residential, retail and business destination, offering unmatched planned city living along the Indian Ocean.

The development will comprise five different precincts including the Financial District, Central Park Living, Island Living, The Marina and the International Island.

When completed, Port City Colombo will have over 6.3 million square metres of state-of-the-art built space. Its lifestyle and business offerings will include world-class facilities and spaces in healthcare, education, entertainment, hotels and restaurants, retail and office with an integrated resort and a Marina.

Built on the latest sustainable city designs and smart city concepts, Port City Colombo aims to be the most livable city in South Asia.

While Port City Colombo is hailed as the catalyst for change in Sri Lanka’s social and economic landscape, it was also met with heavy criticism and outrage for its alleged impact on the environment. However, the company and Government agencies have reiterated on various occasions on the minimal impact referring to the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) done before 2014, the supplementary study in 2015 and EIA 2 done in 2017 for internal infrastructure development covering all aspects.

Port City Colombo was the first ever project to introduce its own Development Control Regulations (DCR) in 2018 formulated by local and foreign experts in keeping with international standards.


The project was in the midst of controversy causing its temporary suspension just a year into its inauguration with the Government change in 2015.

The then Government was quick to criticise the project during their election campaign stating that it did not follow proper procedures. However, after several months being caught in the middle of a tug o’ war, it recommenced in 2016 following one and half years of closure.

The most recent controversy over Port City Colombo was that it threatened Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, with fears that it would become a colony of the Chinese.

This revolved around the fact that Port City Colombo was given to China with Chinese investments and job market being given precedence.

However, the reclaimed land of Port City Colombo has been declared as a part of Sri Lanka and amalgamated into the Colombo administrative district through a Parliament resolution in 2019.

Moreover, the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill recently passed in Parliament makes it clear that the Port City is under the Government of Sri Lanka and that it would be under Sri Lanka’s jurisdiction. As per the tripartite agreement between the Government of Sri Lanka, the Urban Development Authority and the project company, CHEC Port City Colombo, only 43 percent of the reclaimed land or 116 hectares out of the 269 hectares is given on a 99-year lease to recover the initial investment made.


A major milestone for Port City Colombo was that it received Parliament endorsement for the Special Economic Zone Bill, and it is now overseen by a Commission appointed by the President to spearhead operations.

The Commission is chaired by Gamini Marapana PC and includes Acting Director General Saliya Wickramasuriya, Treasury Secretary S. R. Attygalle, Dr. (Eng) Priyath Bandu Wickrama, Kushan Kodithuwakku, Gerard George Ondaatjie and Rohan De Silva.

Speculations was rife earlier that the Commission would have foreigners which would serve negatively in driving forth Sri Lanka’s economic interests. However, this was proved wrong with the appointment of an all Sri Lankan Commission membership.

Port City Colombo took a significant step late last year with Browns Investments PLC entering into a landmark agreement with CHEC to commence the Colombo International Finance Centre (CIFC) mixed development project, which will involve an investment of US$ 450 million. The project will be piloted over two phases, whereby Browns Investments is partnering with CHEC for Phase One via the incorporation of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) company, a subsidiary of Browns Investments.

The total investment in Phase One amounts to US$ 450 million with a buildable land area spanning 3.06 hectares, which is leased from CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt. Ltd.) to the new SPV that will be jointly managed by Browns and CHEC.

This will be a significant undertaking involving the construction of one residential apartment tower, one serviced apartment tower, one office tower and a retail podium on the ground floor.

Ascending to 39 floors, the total gross floor area across the investments will exceed 160,000 square metres, with residential and serviced apartments encompassing an area of over 88,000 square metres inclusive of parking, and a retail space of 24,000 square metres.

The office complex will have a cross area of over 48,000 square metres, according to the company. The CIFC project is a US$ 1 billion investment in total.

First vertical construction

Celebrating the seventh anniversary, Port City Colombo will launch CIFC - the first vertical construction with the ground breaking later this year.

The launch of CIFC will mark the next phase of Port City Colombo development which will enable Sri Lanka to become the gateway to South Asia.

Phase 1 of all internal infrastructure such as roads, bridges, utilities and landscaping is expected to complete during the second half 2022. Over 100 hectares of land parcels are ready for construction.

The Marina and the beach would be open to the public with facilities such as water sports, ATV tracks, 5-hole golf course, playground and club house, once Covid restrictions are relaxed.

Port City is also ready to facilitate the establishment of the regional headquarters of the China Development Bank, as announced by Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa during a meeting with China’s Speaker of Parliament.

The next milestone for Port City Colombo is to select a Director General for the Port City Economic Commission whose role is vital to propel the project forward in the next phase of attracting investors, and bring the country to the next level in the international game of economic power play.