Hambantota is a port town located in southern Sri Lanka. The town has population around 12,000.
New Hambantota Port
Hambantota Port is the selected site for a development project for building a new international seaport - to be named "Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port". The shipping port is scheduled to be constructed in 3 phases, with just the first one completed at building cost of USD 360 million.
- Phase 1 includes: excavation of the Basin area (depth 17 m / 56 ft), dredging of the port's Entrance Channel (width 210 m / 690 ft, depth 16 m / 52 ft), construction of 2 ship docking berths (max capacity 100,000 tons), 1 Oil Berth (capacity 100,000 tons), construction of 2 breakwaters (east and west, with respective lengths 311 m and 988 m / 1020 ft and 3240 ft), building of road infrastructure, 1 cargo storage yard (sized 0, 23 km2 / 0,09 ml2), also construction of port / terminal buildings and utilities. Phase 1 works started in January 2008 and were completed in 2012. The first vessel berthed at Hambantota Port on November 18, 2010.
- As part of the port, an USD 550 million tax-free port zone was opened, with companies based in Russia, China, Dubai and India expressing interest in setting up port facilities, such as shiprepair, shipbuilding, warehouses. After the port's construction is fully completed, it will be able to handle up to 33 ships at a time (33 berths), ranking it the South Asia's largest cargo port.
- The involvement of Chinese companies in the port's development project provoked claims by some analysts it was part of China's String of Pearls (Indian Ocean) strategy / intentions. This theory suggests a network of Chinese military and commercial port facilities along its sea lines of communication extending from China's mainland to Port Sudan. Others argued that it wouldn't be in Sri Lanka's interests to let Chinese navy vessels access to the port.
In 2004, this underdeveloped area was hit hard by an Indian Ocean tsunami and is still undergoing a number of development projects including construction of a new sea port. The international airport was finished in 2013. The projects, also including Hambantota Cricket Stadium, are part of the government's plan to transform the town into Sri Lanka's 2nd major urban hub, away from Colombo.
Historically, after its establishment, the Kingdom of Ruhuna received many traders and travellers from Indonesia, Siam and China. They all sought anchorage in the safe harbor at Godawaya, Ambalantota. The large boats and ships of these traders were called “Sampans”. As "Thota" is translated as "port / anchorage", the port where the "sampans" anchored came to be popular as “Sampantota” (now known as "Godawaya"). Later the whole area was named “Hambantota”.