Transportation

The Greek port Piraeus and Italian ports of Venice and Chioggia are improving on their port performance and port inter-connectivity following the introduction of a new Cosco Shipping feeder service; this is all part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (the New Maritime Silk Road).  This clearly demonstrates the continued efforts to build the maritime network of the New Chinese Silk Road.    

Wapack Labs has written extensively on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, or the New Silk Road.  The port of Piraeus and the ports of the North Adriatic Sea Port Authority, Venice and Chioggia, have signed contracts that outlines greater cooperation between their respective hubs in light of the fast-developing trade from the Far East.[1]  The memorandum of understanding signed on 11 February 2019 comes on the heels of the initiation in November 2018, regarding a weekly container feeder service between Piraeus and Venice operated by Cosco Shipping.  And making an addition to their network of feeder ship links with other Mediterranean ports.  Cosco is a Chinese state-run maritime shipper.

Cosco is running their new service using a 1,400-teu[2] vessel on the two-and-a-half-day voyage in each direction.  Cosco is also majority owner of the Greece Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) and has been running the majority of its container terminal since 2009.  China is open about developing this Greek port as the key hub in China’s Belt and Road Initiative to increase exports to Europe.

Figure 1. Cosco in Piraeus Greece

In the past 6 months, Wapack Labs presented a catalogue of port operations around   the world that China now owns or operates.[3]   China’s Belt and Road Initiative started in 2013 and is now funding major infrastructure projects in scores of countries     across the globe.  The maritime component of this giant effort has involved the construction, purchase, or operation of ports across the Indian Ocean, in Africa, and in Europe. 

Our research demonstrated that China has major port construction or expansion programs under way in at least twenty (20) ports, involving at least US$46 billion in Chinese investment.   There are twelve (12) such projects along the Indian Ocean route from East Asia, including four (4) in Malaysia in and around the Malacca Strait.  Major projects in Africa include ports in Djibouti, Tanzania, and Namibia. 

In Europe, China’s reach includes their ownership of the ports of Zeebrugge, Belgium, and Piraeus, Greece.  Beyond these, there are at least thirteen (13) other smaller port projects underway or locations with planned Chinese port investment, including in Australia, Norway, and Russia.  China also has a controlling interest in a company that operates ports in Houston and Miami.  It is difficult to define China’s ultimate goal, but the scale and reach of this program indicates China would like control of as much on the international maritime infrastructure as possible.  There is also concern that some of these port facilities would eventually become Chinese naval bases, extending Chinese naval power projection capabilities.

PPA’s Chief Executive Captain Fu Chengqiu said the aim of the Greece/Italy memorandum of understanding was, “to strengthen the trade links between Asia and the Mediterranean and to enhance the role of ports as engines for the European economy.”  He noted that Piraeus offered “combined transport solutions” and cargoes could be distributed to other destinations by road, rail and sea. 

Figure 2. Pino Musolino and Captain Fu Chengqiu

Pino Musolino, President of the North Adriatic Sea Port Authority, clearly links their cooperation with Cosco’s new service and forecasts of expanding trade along the “new Maritime Silk Road.”  He said that ports need to pool efforts to rationalize logistics in order “to shorten distances, lower transports costs, remove trucks from roads and improve the environmental sustainability of trade.”  Venice is the western-most point of arrival by sea in the Chinese strategy.  The Venice port will increase the number of containers moved through the port by 3.4 percent to 632,250 teu in 2018. 

This new maritime transportation pact shows steady growth regarding the worldwide network of Chinese-built, Chinese-owned, or Chinese-operated port facilities and indicates at minimum, that China aspires to being present at all major nodes in maritime transportation.   It further suggests that China desire control of as much of the worldwide transportation network links as possible.  In some cases, they are buying into port ownership or management.  In other counties, they are simply building the facilities themselves.  Motivations could range from desiring to be more globally engaged to seeking control as a form of soft power.

About Wapack Labs

Wapack Labs, located in New Boston, NH., is a Cyber Threat Analysis and Intelligence organization supporting the Red Sky Alliance, Trusted Internet LLC and individual corporations by offering expert level targeted intelligence analysis.   Wapack Labs’ engineers, researchers, and analysts design and deliver transformational cyber-security analysis tools that fuse open source and proprietary information, using deep analysis techniques and visualization.  For questions or comments regarding this report, please contact the lab directly by at 1-844-492-7225, or feedback@wapacklabs.com.

[1] The escalation in trade may be a recent and direct effect of the US/China trade war.

[2] teu: twenty-foot equivalent unit container ships under 3,000 teu are generally called feeders

[3] Wapack Labs Asia Desk report: IR-18-192-001

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