Sri Lanka will “re-acquire” the World War-era oil tanks in the eastern city of Trincomalee that were leased out to an Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) subsidiary in 2003, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila has said.
“I am proud to announce that the oil tanks the use of which had been denied to us since 2003 will be soon ours,” Mr. Gammanpila was quoted as saying by news agencies on Wednesday.
The Minister was speaking at an event held in a northern suburb of Colombo, when he referred to a recent discussion with the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka. The Indian side has agreed to “leave aside” the terms negotiated by the former Maithripala Sirisena – Ranil Wickremesinghe administration in 2017, Mr. Gammanpila said.
In 2003, Sri Lanka leased out the oil tank farm to India, for the upgradation and commissioning of 99 tanks in it in a 35 year-period. The project did not proceed as was envisaged. Over a decade later, the two countries renewed discussions during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka in 2015 and got closer to a “roadmap” in 2017, that included a joint venture to execute the project, but could not finalise the deal amid protests from oil workers unions.
Minister Gammanpila indicated that discussions had recommenced, on new terms set by Sri Lanka that included retrieving the tanks that remain under lease, but mostly unused. The harbour in Trincomalee is considered one of the finest deep-sea, natural harbours, in a strategically coveted spot, on Sri Lanka’s north-eastern coast.