BOVIS is set to become the principal contractor for the 130 million first phase of a container terminal project in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.
P&O, Bovis parent group, is heading up a consortium which has a letter of intent for the scheme from the Sri Lankan government.
Sources close to the project say that Bovis would be the preferred contractor for the construction job, subject to approval from other members of the consortium and the Sri Lankan government.
A special joint venture company, South Asia Gateway Terminals, has been set up for the project and will manage the contract as well as holding a long-term lease.
The consortium comprises P&O Containers, P&O Australia and P&Os Sri Lankan partner, John Keells Holdings.
The first phase of the development will enable the port to handle an extra 750,000 containers a year on top of the existing capacity for 1.6 million.
The plan is to modernise, on a build, operate and transfer basis, the Queen Elizabeth Quay and Outer Harbour area of the port.
The consortium is in detailed talks with the Sri Lankan government and negotiations are expected to be concluded within six months to allow work on site to begin later this year.
P&O chairman Lord Sterling told Construction News that Colombo could become a hub port of the world, and there is potential for many more projects associated with the ports expansion to come on stream during the next 20 to 30 years.
Further phases of the project are expected to involve the construction of a new breakwater, progressive development of berths in the harbour between 2000 and 2005, and associated dredging work.
The eventual handling capacity of the terminal could top three million TEUs (twenty foot equivalent units), but aid agency funds will be needed before further construction phases can go ahead.
Last year, Mott MacDonald and Felixstowe Port Consultants tied up a 470 million build, operate and transfer container port project at Galle, 100 km south of Colombo.
Work there includes dredging, breakwater construction and installing container handling equipment.