Sri Lanka will ink the long-dragging deal with India to jointly develop the Trincomalee oil tank farm in a month’s time, reports The Hindu.
“We have been negotiating this for 16 months, and we are now very close to finalising the terms of the Trincomalee project with India. We hope to sign the agreement in a month,” Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila told the Indian media outlet.
The Minister said he has instructed the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation to form a subsidiary company, Trinco Petroleum Terminal Ltd., for the purpose.
The move follows President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s nod to setting up the special purpose vehicle ahead of the next Cabinet meeting.
“We don’t have a Cabinet meeting this week because of the holidays. We will get the decision ratified in the next one,” Mr. Gammanpila said.
During the Second World War, the British built the Trincomalee oil tank farms to serve as a refuelling station, adjacent to the Trincomalee port.
The nearly century-old oil tanks need to be refurbished — at the cost of millions of dollars — if they are to be fit for use again.
The facility, located in ‘China Bay’, has 99 storage tanks with a capacity of 12,000 kilolitres each, spread across the Upper Tank Farm and the Lower Tank Farm, where Lanka Indian Oil Company currently runs 15 tanks.
The new agreement being negotiated pertains to the remaining tanks.
Diplomatic sources indicated that New Delhi’s nod for the emergency Lines of Credit and currency swap requests from Colombo was contingent on the Rajapaksa administration moving forward on the Trincomalee deal.
However, dismissing the idea, Mr. Gammanpila said: “Some including the political opposition are suggesting that India’s economic assistance is tied to the Trincomalee deal. I vehemently deny that. We began negotiating this agreement well before the economic assistance was sought,” insisting “there is no connection whatsoever.”