China MOU could create market distortion

Port of Trieste The Port of Trieste plans to enter its own agreement with China Communications Construction Company. Credit: Port of Trieste

As Italy prepares to be the first G7 country to sign a Belt and Road initiative MOU with China, a port analyst has questioned whether Chinese investment will distort the ports market.

The MOU has sparked unease from the US, currently engaged in a heated trade war with the country, and Europe, about the potential growth in China’s business influence. Considering the implications for port specifically, Drewry’s Neil Davidson said that investment in transport infrastructure would improve the competitiveness of the Italian ports concerned but this would depend on which ports are involved and how coordinated the overall approach.

“Much will depend on whether Chinese investment is made at one or several Italian ports, and the extent to which it is part of an overall coordinated approach. There is talk of Genoa, Trieste and Palermo being involved for example,” said Mr Davidson. He noted that infrastructure investment may cut across EU transport policy and funding, creating added tension.

The potential infrastructure investment “raises the question of what impact this may have on inter-port competition - Genoa competes with La Spezia and Savona/Vado, for example, and Genoa and Savona/Vado now fall under the Western Ligurian Sea Port Authority.”

Trieste deal

During President Xi Jinping’s visit to France, Italy and Monaco from 21-26 March, the Port of Trieste plans to enter its own agreement with China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), in a bid to increase its international competitiveness.

Further highlighting the complexity of current arrangements, Mr Davidson stated: “Trieste is competing with Ravenna and Venice but also Rijeka (Croatia) and Koper (Slovenia), both of which are EU member countries. All five ports are part of the North Adriatic Ports Association.”

China’s interest in Europe’s ports is already well documented. COSCO runs the Port of Piraeus in Greece and chinese shipping companies hold stakes in at least 12 EU ports. The Belt and Road initiative may see this influence rise, as it involves China building infrastructure across the world, to boost trade and investment links.

However, Mr Davidson stressed: “It is important not to assume that Italian ports could experience stellar volume growth similar to that of Piraeus as a result of Chinese involvement.

“This could only happen if shipping line Cosco chose (and was able) to develop them as a transhipment hub in the same way as it did at Piraeus. It is unlikely that the Piraeus experience could be duplicated. Cosco most likely has sufficient transhipment hubs in the Med, especially when its alliance partner CMA CGM also already has its own hubs as well.”

Europe has taken steps to preserve its own business stronghold. In 2018, the rival EU-Asia Connectivity Strategy was launched to enhance ties between Europe and Asia in the energy, transport and digital sectors, in a move which aims to not burden countries with debts they cannot replay.



Bromma has been selected to deliver the spreaders for the automatic stacking cranes to be commission... Read more

Kalmar's automated and manual straddle carriers selected by Patrick Terminals for fleet renewal programme

Kalmar's automated and manual straddle carriers selected by Patrick Terminals for fleet renewal prog... Read more


Hyster Europe has launched a new top lift Laden Container Handler that is expected to increase produ... Read more

ShibataFenderTeam delivered Element Fenders for Finland’s first hybrid-electric ferry

In May 2017, Elektra was christened, Finferries’ newest addition to their fleet. Elektra is Finland’... Read more

Introducing TGI’s Hosting Offer Service

At TGI Maritime Software, our primary concern is to make it as easy as possible for your maritime te... Read more

Sophisticated charging systems for automated guided vehicles (AGVs)

Industry 4.0 and Logistics 4.0 go hand in hand in tight synergy. New technologies will significantly... Read more

View all