COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka will sign a deal with Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) to restore 75 oil tanks as the country moves to secure a $500 million fuel credit line from India, its energy minister said on Friday.
The island nation is facing dwindling foreign exchange reserves and has nearly $4.5 billion worth of debt repayments in 2022, prompting it to look at innovative ways to bring in foreign exchange.
The facility, with 99 storage tanks, is located next to a harbour off Sri Lanka’s east coast and though India and Sri Lanka agreed to jointly develop it in 1987, negotiations dragged on for decades.
The cost of restoration is pegged at about $1 million per tank. The latest round of negotiations between the Sri Lankan government, its Indian counterpart and LIOC began in August 2020.
Under the proposed agreement, LIOC, a subsidiary of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), will be given 14 tanks on a 50-year lease and a 49% stake in 61 other tanks that will be held jointly with State-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), the minister said.
Sri Lankan government will retain the remaining 24 tanks.
“This is a historic moment for Sri Lanka,” Udaya Gammanpila told reporters. “We hope to receive Cabinet approval on Monday and once it is given, we will sign the agreement.”
Sri Lanka is also separately negotiating a $500 million credit line from India’s Exim Bank which is near completion, the minister added. The credit line will enable Sri Lanka to buy refined petrol and diesel from Indian suppliers. Sri Lanka spends about $3.5-$4 billion per year on fuel.
“Most probably the credit line will be signed in the next 3-4 weeks,” the minister said.
The credit line is expected to give Sri Lanka some breathing space ahead of a $500 million bond repayment due on Jan. 18.
Sri Lanka is also negotiating an additional $1 billion credit line from India, two sources at the Finance Ministry confirmed to Reuters.