India-Russia Consortium Secures Management Contract for Sri Lanka’s Mattala Airport

In a significant development in the aviation sector, a joint venture between an Indian and a Russian firm has secured the contract to manage Sri Lanka’s Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport for the next three decades. The airport, located near Hambantota, has been in the spotlight for its underutilization despite substantial investment.

The contract, awarded for a duration of 30 years, marks a pivotal moment in the strategic positioning of the airport, situated in close proximity to the Hambantota port, which is currently operated by China under a lease agreement.

Originally constructed at a cost of $209 million, the Mattala airport gained notoriety as the “world’s emptiest airport” due to its low flight traffic. The decision to entrust its management to the India-Russia joint venture, comprising Shaurya Aeronautics (Pvt) Ltd. from India and Russia’s Airports of Regions Management Company, comes after a rigorous evaluation process.

Government spokesperson and Minister Bandula Gunawardena confirmed that the Sri Lankan Cabinet, following a call for expressions of interest in January, received five proposals for the airport’s management. A consultative committee, appointed by the Cabinet, unanimously recommended the joint venture for the contract, a decision subsequently approved by the Cabinet.

This initiative marks the second collaboration between India and Russia in the region, following the ongoing construction of the Roopur nuclear power plant in Bangladesh. India’s role in the project extends beyond financial investment, encompassing training for local personnel and logistical support.

The Mattala airport, a flagship infrastructure project during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure, has struggled with operational challenges since its inauguration in 2013. Despite financing from the Export-Import Bank of China, the airport has faced limited commercial success, prompting the Sri Lankan government to seek external partnerships for its management.

In addition to managing operational aspects, discussions are underway between Sri Lanka and the Export-Import Bank of China to restructure the loan associated with the airport, reflecting ongoing efforts to address its financial sustainability.

The joint venture’s successful bid to manage the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport heralds a new chapter in the airport’s trajectory, signaling potential opportunities for enhanced connectivity and economic growth in the region.

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