COLOMBO: An Indian delegation is here to discuss a possible joint venture to operate Sri Lanka's loss-making Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport in Hambantota, the government said today.
The USD 210 million facility, 241km south-east of Sri Lanka's capital city, Colombo, is dubbed the "world's emptiest airport" due to a lack of flights.
The only international flight operating from there was halted in May due to recurrent losses and flight safety issues.
Sri Lankan Deputy Minister of Transport Ashok Abeysinghe stated this in Parliament while answering an Opposition query on whether the Mattala airport, which was funded by China, would be sold outright.
Abeysinghe said India has expressed willingness to operate the airport as a Sri Lanka-India joint venture.
"Despite making losses the airport would never be sold," he said.
Mattala airport, named after former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, was a China-supported infrastructure project in his home district of Hambantota.
The airport was officially opened in March 2013.
The airport has the capacity to handle one million passengers a year and is expected to handle five million passengers, 50,000 tonnes of cargo and 6,250 air traffic operations per annum by 2028.
The government in 2017 invited investors to turn the airport into a profit-sharing joint venture.
However, no proposals were received to operate, manage and maintain the airport.
The seaport built in Hambantota, another Rajapaksa pet project, has been leased to China to set off Chinese loans as equity.
The Rajapaksa-led Opposition has called the Hambantota seaport deal a sell-out of national assets to China.