China-Sri Lanka cooperation in the port industry under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has brought visible benefits to Sri Lanka's port development over the past years.
The cooperation, upgraded from co-management of a single terminal to comprehensive cooperation within the whole port, has helped western Sri Lanka's Colombo port become one of the fastest growing ports in the world.
In 2014, China Merchant Port Holdings (CM Port) and Sri Lanka Ports Authority joined hands to manage the Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) in the Colombo port.
Alphaliner, an international rating agency, said in its latest report that the Colombo port was ranked highest in container growth in the first half of 2018, out of the top 30 global ports.
The port recorded a year-on-year growth of 15.6 percent in container handling in January-June of 2018, according to the report.
Sri Lanka's Ports and Shipping Ministry hailed the "significant achievement," saying it is "the first time in history that the Colombo port has reached the top of a global maritime ranking."
Besides its focus on growth, the CICT also lays much emphasis on reducing impact on the environment.
In November 2017, the CICT announced the conversion of all 40 traditional rubber-tired gantry cranes into electrified ones, making the largest green one in South Asia.
As a result, unlike traditional container yards, the container yard of the CICT now produces no loud noises or a pungent odor from the diesel generators.
As part of the China-proposed BRI, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is designed to go from China's coast to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China's coast through the South China Sea to the South Pacific in the other. It's part of China's efforts to promote maritime cooperation, regional inter-connectivity and economic integration.
Also in 2017, CM Port and Sri Lanka Ports embarked on a partnership to co-develop and manage the Hambantota port in the south, only 10 nautical miles from a busy shipping route in the Indian Ocean.
The Hambantota port has been functioning "extremely well," said Chief Operating Officer Tissa Wickramasinghe from the joint-venture Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG).
The officer added that the roll-on/roll-off (RO-RO) business, which concerns the loading of vehicles and machinery, is picking up faster than expected.
Last month, the Hambantota port inked its first Terminal Service Agreement (TSA) with K-Line PTE Limited, one of the world's largest RO-RO operators based in Singapore.
The Hambantota port was gearing up to become the leading port in the Indian Ocean, said Ravindra Jayawickreme, CEO of Hambantota International Port Services (HIPS).
The CEO added that with its advantageous location, Hambantota is expected to become the only port in the country capable of handling the full gamut of services in the maritime and logistics area.
"But what was necessary to push this into the limelight was the right partnerships, and this is what CM Port brought to the table," Jayawickreme added.
Sri Lanka Ports Authority Chairman Parakrama Dissanayake said the Colombo port is "currently the trans-shipment hub of South Asia. With the emergence of Hambantota, we envisage establishing Hambantota as an industrial gateway to the Indian sub-continent."
"This is a new dimension that is emerging out of the partnership with CM Port," Parakrama added.