Port History

The Port of Colombo, Sri Lanka – a Brief History

The Port of Colombo in Sri Lanka – A Brief History

With a land area size of 1,200 acres, the Port of Colombo on the southwestern shores of the Kelani River

Port of Colombo Sri Lanka
Image from Wikipedia – click for link

is both the busiest and the largest post in Sri Lanka. As with many other ports across the globe, this port has plenty of history and has seen many a battle over its time. While it has been upgraded and changed to meet new needs, the Port never loses its history. We take a look at the Port of Colombo’s history here.


Early History

The Port of Colombo has actually been around for thousands of years, and was originally known to Chinese, Roman and Arab traders more than 2 000 years ago! The Arab Muslim traders settled in Colombo by the 8th century and used this as a base for their trade, and they make up the local Sri Lankan Muslim community today.

The Portuguese

The Portuguese first discovered the Port of Colombo in 1505 They then banished the Muslims and established a trading post. The Portuguese were finally defeated in 1656, when the area was taken by the Dutch. The port was also the capital of the Dutch Maritime Provinces until 1796.

The British & the Port’s Independence

In 1796, the Port of Colombo fell to the British, and it became their capital of a new British colony known as Ceylon. The British were a key part of the port’s history and they made some major changes and upgrades to the port during their reign, including the development of a sheltered harbour. Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, and more upgrades were made.

The Sri Lanka Ports AuthorityPort of Colombo Sri Lanka

In 1980, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority was formed and between 1980 to 2000 the Port of Colombo underwent major upgrades to allow it to handle containerized cargo. An Oil Berth was opened in 1997 and in 1999 the Oluvil Lighthouse and the Oluvil Maritime Training Center were opened.


Colombo Harbour, Ceylon 1880-1890

During the 2000’s, further investment in the Port led to more development, and today the Port of Colombo is one of the most well-known top ports in the world. Its strategic location and outstanding facilities rank it amongst the top 30 container ports globally, and the port shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

If you’re looking for underwater maintenance services at the Port of Colombo, be sure to contact us today!

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