Port of Colombo

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Ports & Harbours

Port of Colombo

Galle in the south of Sri Lanka was previously the main trading port but gradually more and more trade moved to Colombo as port facilities improved with the construction of the artificial harbour. Situated at the mouth of the Kelani Ganga (River), Colombo has been trading port for over 2,000 years.


The Port of Colombo is now the busiest in Sri Lanka and ranks among the top 35 ports in the world. It has a dredged depth of over 15 meters but the maximum draft is about 10 meters for general cargo vessels. It serves as an important hub in Asia due to its strategic location in the Asian continent.


The Port handles over 30 tonnes of cargo annually and further expansions are underway. The two berths at the purpose-built JAYE Terminal provide complete container terminal facilities eqipped with modern cargo handling equipment. The Port is also the naval base for Sri Lanka Navy Western Fleet under the Commander Western Naval Area. The Port of Colombo operates on a 24x7 hour basis throughout the year.


Port of Galle

The ancient Port of Galle has a natural harbour and is protected by a rocky promontory called Point De Galle. The Portuguese first arrived in Galle in 1587 and built a small-fortified settlement here. It was after the Dutch captured Galle in 1640 that it achieved its greatest prosperity and today it is the surviving Dutch architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries, which lends Galle its charm. Although the entrance to the port was dangerous due to submerged rocks and reefs, Galle was the main port of the island until the rise of the Port of Colombo in 1875 after the construction of breakwaters in the development of Colombo harbour.


The Port of Galle having a water area of 320 hectares provides mooring facilities for two alongside vessels. Pleasure yachts are accommodated. In addition, the port provides excellent opportunity for principals to carry out offshore ships supply services. The Port operates on a 24x7 hour basis throughout the year, except on May Day and with only day light navigation.

Bird's-eye View of the Ports

The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has the mandate to operate and maintain all seven ports.

Port of Magampura, Hambantota

The Port of Magampura (aka Port of Hambantota) is Sri Lanka’s newest port declared opened on 18th November 2010 and is the southern most port. Ancient Greek navigators knew of this safe anchorage and from this information Ptolemy named it Dionysil on his map of Taprobane.


At present it caters to bulk cargo and other port related industrial activities. With Hambantota within a few nautical miles of the world’s busiest shipping lane, it is ideally located directly at the intersection of major international sea trading routes. The approach channel width is 210 meters and depth 17 meters. Two lighthouses guide vessel entry into the port.


Port of Trincomalee

The British naval hero, Admiral Lord Nelson, described Trincomalee as the greatest harbour in the world, and it is hardly surprising that the Europeans were to battle for it on several occasions. At various times, the Portuguese, Danes, Dutch, French and the British held it due to its strategic location in the Bay of Bengal. As a result the Port of Trincomalee is steeped in history and legends. Read more>>


Trincomalee has the fifth largest natural harbour in the world with a water area of over 2,000 hectares. It is about 10 times larger than the Port of Colombo. There are many scenic bays and coves that border its coastline in tranquil waters with some pristine beaches​ and overlooked by highlands. The Port of Trincomalee mainly handles bulk cargo and other port related industrial activities. It is also home to the Sri Lankan Eastern Command naval base. The Port operates on a 24x7 hour basis throughout the year, except on May Day and with only day light navigation at present.

Further reading:


Fisheries harbours (see map for locations) provide facilities to the fishing community. They are operated and maintained by the Ceylon Fishery Harbours Corporation (CFHC).


  • Dickowita, located north of Colombo is the largest fisheries harbour.

  • Mutwal fisheries harbour just north of Colombo is the only harbour where foreign vessels are permitted to land their catch.

  • Mirissa fisheries harbour has been developing into a marina for yachts and whale watching vessels. 

  • Dondra harbour is not classified as a fisheries harbour.

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