Colombo Port City Investor Interest Grows as Colombo Port City Economic Commission Delivers Rapid Progress in 2023

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The Colombo Port City Economic Commission (the Commission) recently published its Comprehensive Progress Report for the fiscal year 2023, spanning from January to August. This period has seen remarkable developments within the Commission, Colombo Port City, and in regard to the finalization of legal frameworks for the Colombo Port City Special Economic Zone (SEZ), reinforcing the project’s status as a prime investment destination and the emerging “Gateway to South Asia”. 

The Commission, as the Single Window Investment Facilitator, has been diligently working to streamline processes and foster a business-friendly environment for investors, businesses, and residents. In this endeavour, several key legal milestones have been achieved this year by the Commission, solidifying its commitment to building a robust business ecosystem within Colombo Port City. 

Legal and Regulatory Milestones

The Asiri Port City Hospital Lease Agreement was signed with Asiri Port City Hospital (Private) Limited, paving the way for the execution of the Indenture of Lease and Investor Agreement, pending specific conditions, to establish a state-of-the-art hospital within the SEZ. The Colombo Port City (Duty-Free Operations) Rules, No. 01 of 2023, were also officially published in the Gazette on May 22, 2023, under reference number 2333/14. 

Meanwhile, a strategic partnership was also forged between the Commission and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC)-Institute for the Development of Commercial Law and Practice (ICLP) International ADR Centre (Guarantee) Limited (IADRC). This collaboration designates IADRC to provide Alternate Dispute Resolution Services within the jurisdiction of Colombo Port City, accompanied by an agreement with the Ministry of Justice to establish a world-class Arbitration Centre. The Colombo Port City Development Control Regulations (DCR) were also updated and published in the extraordinary gazette No 2334/47 on June 02nd, 2023.

Most notably, the Parliament of Sri Lanka approved a special incentives programme, designed in consultation with the Minister of Investment Promotion, to support businesses categorized as Businesses of Strategic Importance (BSI). This programme was published in Extraordinary Gazette No. 2343/60, on August 04th, 2023.

Progress with Commercial Development

Highlighting the fast-paced progress within Colombo Port City, a number of achievements with regard to commercial development have been made. A Cabinet Memorandum facilitated Duty-Free operations and designated Duty-Free mall operators and retailers as Businesses of Strategic Importance. Government Notification No 2333/14 established Duty-Free Rules, outlining eligibility criteria for shoppers, permissible purchases, and applicable limits under the Port City Duty-Free regime. Key players, including Port City Duty-Free Private Limited and Duty-Free Retail operator One World Duty-Free (ODF) Pte Ltd, were officially inducted as Authorized Persons.

Alongside this, interior work on the Duty-Free Mall has progressed rapidly, with site handovers to retail operators expected in December 2023. A dedicated executive team from Sri Lanka Customs has also been appointed to oversee import procedures, clearance, and duty-free compliance. Collaborations with the Department of Excise have also been initiated to develop regulations aligned with trading hours and norms to enhance Colombo Port City’s appeal as a tourist destination. Meanwhile, preliminary approval from the Civil Aviation Authority was secured for a check-in facility for departing passengers at the Duty-Free Mall premises itself.

Engineering Headway

Making significant progress with regard to infrastructure and engineering, regulations governing Apartment Ownership and Condominium Management were drafted, and have been submitted to the Ministry of Investment Promotion. A number of site inspections have also been carried out, and have addressed infrastructure development issues identified in Phase I, enhancing overall development. These are quickly being addressed to make way for Phase II. 

Technology Advancements

As a modern, tech-centric development, committed to sustainability, key progress milestones were achieved in this area as well, during the year. A committee, comprising IT/Technology leaders, Commission officials, and CHEC Port City Colombo representatives, was established to advise on technology-related matters, including smart city development.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Mastercard has been inked to foster collaboration in data insights, technology innovation, sustainable growth, and digital accessibility. A Duty-Free verification system is also in development to monitor compliance when Port City Duty-Free operations commence. Meanwhile, the Commission also launched its official website(s) and mobile application, enhancing accessibility and convenience for stakeholders and visitors.

These accomplishments underscore the Commission’s unwavering commitment to fostering economic growth, innovation, and a dynamic business environment within Colombo Port City. With an optimistic future outlook, the Commission eagerly anticipates continued collaboration and progress during the remainder of the year and the upcoming year, building upon the foundation of success established so far in 2023. Investors can thus now confidently explore the opportunities that Colombo Port City offers the world as the Gateway to South Asia.

Read the full Comprehensive Progress Report 2023 here:

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