- But in 2009, the president had grown impatient. His 65th birthday was approaching the following year, and to mark the occasion he wanted a grand opening at the Hambantota port — including the beginning of an ambitious expansion 10 years ahead of the Port Authority’s original timeline.
Chinese laborers began working day and night to get the port ready, officials said. But when workers dredged the land and then flooded it to create the basin of the port, they had not taken into account a large boulder that partly blocked the entrance, preventing the entry of large ships, like oil tankers, that the port’s business model relied on.
Ports Authority officials, unwilling to cross the president, quickly moved ahead anyway. The Hambantota port opened in an elaborate celebration on Nov. 18, 2010, Mr. Rajapaksa’s birthday. Then it sat waiting for business while the rock blocked it.