Dalian seeks role as leading northeast deep-water port
Authorities in the northeast city of Dalian plan to transform Dayao Bay, a natural deep-water harbour, into a massive container complex like Kwai Chung in Hong Kong and Tanjong Pagar-Keppel in Singapore.
Dalian authorities will keep all future container terminal development in the bay, which is about 50 kilometres from the city by road, and about 15 nautical miles by sea.
There are now two container berths at Dayao bay with water depth of 11 metres. A third berth with a depth of 12 metres is due to come on-stream soon. Two more 14-metre-deep berths will also be built.
Dalian Container Terminal, a joint venture between the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) and the Port of Dalian Authority, is operating the two existing berths, and will also operate the third berth when completed.
The cost of the project is four billion yuan (about HK$3.72 billion).
'The first five berths will be adequate to meet demand for the next few years,' Zhang Dexin, vice-director of the Port of Dalian Authority, said.
'If demand warrants it, Dalian Container Terminal [DCT] will work together with Dalian authorities to expedite the development of new facilities.' When completed, all five berths will have a quay length of about 1,400 metres to accommodate two mother vessels and four feeder ships at the same time.
The port was prepared to build slightly ahead of demand to ensure that Dalian had adequate facilities, Mr Zhang said, adding that the new facilities would be built close to existing facilities to aid container movement from one shipping line to another.
The bay has room to accommodate a further 40 berths or more.
DCT also plans to equip the terminal with about 13 to 14 quay cranes to provide faster ship turnaround times.
Mr Zhang said a team of officials would study the port and make recommendations on improvements to management and operating systems.
'A modern management structure will be introduced and international practices in port management will be adopted,' he said.
He added that Dalian had chosen the PSA as its partner to draw from its management expertise and experience.
According to Mr Zhang, the authorities were taking steps to build up Dalian's container base by promoting greater use of containers in its hinterland.
It is estimated that only about 30 per cent of general cargo handled in Dalian is containerised - a far lower figure than the average 45 per cent achieved by other ports such as Shanghai, Tianjin, Qingdao and Guangzhou.
In Indonesia, containerisation is 40 per cent, Malaysia 55 per cent and Thailand 75 per cent.
Container handling in Dalian, which used to be scattered among three different sites, has now been consolidated into one location with the formation of DCT. Two other locations have been closed.
Dalian containers, as well as all of North China's containers, are now moved by feeder vessels to South Korea, Hong Kong port or Kobe, Yokohama and other Japanese ports for transshipment.
These containers are then transferred on to large long-haul vessels to destinations in the United States, Europe and North Asia.
Dalian serves the three provinces of Hebei, Liaoning and Jilin, with a population of 103 million people and gross domestic product of 508 billion yuan.
Official statistics show that GDP is growing in excess of 10 per cent a year.
The foreign trade generated by the three provinces was US$18 billion in 1993 and is also showing double-digit growth.
Road and rail networks in northeast China are of good quality and are generally well-developed.
Part of the expressway linking Dalian through Shenyang and Changchun to Harbin has been completed.
Mr Zhang said Dalian, Shenyang, Changchun and Harbin could be areas for consolidation, disbursement and distribution centres.
'We are looking at a few strategic projects to spearhead the development of inland container depots and other container-related services and facilities,' he said.
The ports, inside Bohai Sea, form Dalian's secondary hinterland, serving a further nine provinces with a population of 210 million and GDP of 900 billion yuan.
Tianjin is bigger than Dalian port, handling 800,000 20 ft equivalent units (teus) last year, more than double Dalian's 370,000 teus.
Mr Zhang said competition with Tianjin would be tough. 'Beyond this disadvantage, we are confident that Dalian can compete effectively with Tianjin because Dalian is better-endowed with deep water, unlike the ports inside Bohai Sea, which are shallow and affected by siltation.' He said container shipping trends showed that vessels were becoming larger and larger with some shipbuilders planning for 7,000-teu vessels and a conceptual design for 8,000-teu vessels.
'These ships require deep water and a large volume of cargo at the ports of call.
'Currently, none of the North China ports can accommodate them because these ports are lacking on both counts.' Dalian was set to fill the gap, he said.