Gotabaya faces test on balancing foreign powers’ access to Trincomalee

[TamilNet, Sunday, 26 April 2020, 11:50 GMT]
Sinhala nationalist hardliners, who are opposed to the UNP-led alliance have stepped up their campaign against the continued leasing of China Bay Tankfarm in Trincomalee to Lanka IOC PLC, a private subsidiary of Indian Oil Corporation in the island. The pro-China sections also have reservations about SL President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s US background, informed sources in Colombo said. In the meantime, the oil farm of the World War II vintage has gained attention at various levels as oil prices continue to fall due to the pandemic and there is an increased demand for the storage of crude oil.

“We could persuade the Sri Lanka government to kick-start the utilisation of oil storage facilities at Trincomalee. This could be done in a mutually beneficial manner,” wrote Anupam Manur, an assistant professor at Bangalore-based Bangalore-based Takshashila Institution think tank, in an article published on New Delhi-based Hindustan Times on 22 April.

Lanka IOC, a subsidiary of Indian Oil Corporation, already operates fifteen of ninety-nine oil storage tanks in Trincomalee, which it took over in 2003 in a 35-year-lease. Each store has a capacity of around 12,000 tonnes.

In the meantime, former SL Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Harsha de Silva of the UNP has called for keeping the political differences in South aside to “develop” the 800-acre Trincomalee oil tank farm facility on a public-private-partnership basis.

Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Government resumed the project and agreed to create a joint venture between CPC and LIOC in 2016-2018. “But, the Joint Opposition protested crippled work and stopped the negotiations with Delhi. By then Japan had also expressed interest and was considering investment. Once again the threat was to ‘nationalise’ the leased tank farm and to develop the facility via the CPC,” Harsha de Silva wrote in a piece published by the Daily Financial Times on Friday.

“Countries like Singapore (and many others) have built large storage capacity and oil trading hubs over the years; using both domestic and foreign investments. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, has an 800-acre enviable oil tank farm that we inherited from the British, but is now almost a forest,” the former SL deputy minister argued in his article.

A section of oil tanks at Trincomalee in production
A section of oil tanks at Trincomalee in production [Photo courtesy: Ft.lk, 13 October 2018]


Related Articles:
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30.05.03   Chinabay oil tank farm modernization to begin
28.05.03   Indian Oil Corp begins operations in Sri Lanka
26.04.02   Indians bid for Trincomalee oil storage facility
02.04.02   Indian HC visits Trincomalee oil tank farm


External Links:
Daily FT: Plummeting oil prices, missed opportunities and cheap Lankan politics
roar.media: Tank 91 – The Story Of The Trincomalee Oil Tank Destroyed In World War 2
Hindustan Times: Use the oil crash to boost India’s strategic reserves
Xinhua: Sri Lanka to double crude oil tank capacity by 2020


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