Colombo– Sri Lanka’s southern Hambantota Port is aiming to attract investments worth $500 million as plans are afoot to set up port related industries inside the port as well as general operation expansion, Ports Minister Mahinda Samarasingha said on Friday.

China Merchant Port Holdings (CM Port) and state-owned Sri Lanka Ports Authority in July last year signed an agreement to manage and run the operations of the Hambantota Port, Xinhua news agency reported.

Following the signing, the Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) was set up, which is a joint venture company formed by the Sri Lankan government and CM Port.

Samarasingha said that to date, HIPG received 15 proposals to set up plants inside the port from local to international investors.

With the establishment of the joint venture with CM Port, the port has been able to double the number of transshipment vehicles handled from 15,000 to 35,000 per quarter, the minister said.

He said that although from quarter-to-quarter, the number of ships remained the same, the number of transshipment vehicles handled had doubled at the Hambantota Port.

“It is through the global network that CM Port has that we were able to increase the numbers,” Chief Operating Officer of HIPG, Tissa Wickramasinghe said.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe earlier called the Hambantota Port “the largest multi-purpose port in Sri Lanka that will add to the country’s concept of transforming into a hub in the Indian Ocean”. (IANS)