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Beibu Gulf Port: Laying a Foundation with First-Class Facilities to Become an International Hub

2022-02-25 09:16:54   By:China-ASEAN    Hits:

Written by Huang Yunyun/Translated by Xie Zongming

Five years ago, when Chinese President Xi Jinping was inspecting the Tieshan Port in Guangxi, he indicated that the Beibu Gulf Port should be well constructed and have good management and operation, so that the first-class facilities, first-class technology, first-class management, and first-class service of the port can contribute to the development of Guangxi, the construction of the Belt and Road, and the expansion of open cooperation. 

In the past five years, the Beibu Gulf Port Group has endeavored to work on these “Four First-Class”, among which the group has seen great achievement in the construction of first-class facilities. Currently, China’s first fully automatic smart port for sea-rail combined transportation is under accelerated construction. At the Dalanping Operation Zone of Qinzhou Port Area, the automatic terminal, double trolley quayside container cranes, rail gantry cranes, and AGVs stand in lines on the shore. According to the program, this smart container port will provide a replicable “Beibu Gulf Method” for container port construction in China and even the world.

Terminal of Qinzhou Port

A consistent infrastructure planning offered by the three-in-one integration

The Beibu Gulf Port is the most convenient entry to the ocean in Western China with three natural ports in it, namely the Fangchenggang Port, the Beihai Port, and the Qinzhou Port. Also, it can handle 300,000-ton-class bulk cargo ships and 200,000-ton-class container ships. All of these prove that the port is a natural good port. However, the three ports were once under separate administration, which led to inconsistent planning, not to mention that the ports had insufficient funds. Therefore, the overall development level of the Beibu Gulf Port was low and the infrastructure started late. It lacked the opportunity to turn the situation around and develop its competitiveness.

To change the status quo, the Guangxi government combined its coastal ports with cross-regional policies in 2007, which integrated the assets of the three ports and set up the Beibu Gulf Port Group to formulate consistent planning, construction, administration, and operation solutions. This was the first successful example of implementing integrated port development among Chinese coastal provinces. With a three-in-one port, the Beibu Gulf Port Group could establish an unhindered public infrastructure construction mechanism.

From 2007 to 2017, the Beibu Gulf Port have built the 250,000-ton-class bulk cargo terminal and the 100,000-ton-class container terminal along with other high-level terminals and broad waterways after 10 years of construction. In 2017 when President Xi Jinping was inspecting Guangxi, he approved the development of the Beibu Gulf Port and said, “We are going to create a seaward economy. As the saying goes ‘Build a road if you want the place to get rich’, it would be ‘Build a port if you want the place to get rich’ for the coastal regions.” These simple but strong words guided the people to speed up port facility construction.

Capacity further ungraded by New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor Construction

2017 was a significant year for the Beibu Gulf Port Group. In that year, President Xi brought forward the Four First-Class new goal as the development direction for the Beibu Gulf Port. The Framework Agreement on Jointly Building the China-Singapore Southern Transport Corridor Connectivity Project was signed the same year, whose result is the now New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, significantly aiding the development of the Beibu Gulf Port.

This land-sea corridor not only improved the geographical significance of the port but also motivated the markets and logistics resources in Western China and ASEAN. No matter for the need to develop the corridor or for the construction of the port itself, it was imperative to upgrade the port’s facilities, such as terminals, waterways, railways, and so on.

With its second-mover advantage, the Group put its attention to port facilities construction. During the 13th Five-Year Plan, the Group has focused on attracting investment to facilitate infrastructure development, for which it has completed a total investment of RMB 13.963 billion yuan. By the end of the 13th Five-Year Plan, Guangxi’s coastal ports owned a total of 268 berths for production use with a designed traffic capacity of 264,350,000 tons and a container handling capacity of 4.25 million TEUs.

Aside from terminal and berth construction, the Qinzhou Container Railway Central Station, which is connected to the berths of the Dalanping Operation Zone, is another significant project that showcases the capacity upgrade of Beibu Gulf Port. The station was officially put into operation on June 30, 2019. The rail of the station stretches all the way to the terminal, achieving the immediate loading and unloading of goods and eliminating the transportation nuisance at the “last kilometer of the railway”. This station, along with other central stations in Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi’an, and Kunming, has become an important transport hub along the New Land-Sea Corridor.

In 2021, trains put into operation along the New Western Land-Sea Corridor exceeded 6,000

In 2021, the first year of the 14th Five-Year Plan, the facilities construction of the Beibu Gulf Port saw great improvements. The Beibu Gulf Group started to build the 12# and 19# berth in Jingujiang Operation Zone and passed the project acceptance of China’s first automatic sea-rail combined container terminal. It facilitated the completion and operation of key projects, such as the 300,000-ton-class oil terminal and the phase I and II of the modification project of the East Waterway expansion. These efforts allowed the port to handle large international container ships and ensured its first-tier position in terms of handling capacity in China.

On November 5, 2021, the New Wealth oil tanker entered and berthed at the 300,000-ton-class oil terminal in Qinzhou under the remote monitoring of Qinzhou Maritime Safety Administration and the escort of three patrol vessels, which signified the official operation of the terminal. In the future, the terminal will provide the most convenient and efficient handling service for the oil refineries and crude oil depots in the Beibu Gulf region and will avoid the safety and environmental risks of lighterage for the oil tankers, which will significantly lower the transport cost while increasing the overall profit.

As the waterway upgrade and berth and terminal construction finished building sequentially, the Beibu Gulf Port found out its pace of development with new opportunities like the New Land-Sea Corridor.

Like having another one

The first-class facilities being put into operation have increased the cargo throughput of the Beibu Gulf Port. In 2021, the cargo throughput of the port reached 360 million tons and the container throughput reached 6.01 million TEUs, increased by 21.6% and 19% respectively. The speed of increase of the port is in a leading position among Chinese ports, which made the Beibu Gulf Port Group’s revenue in 2021 reached RMB 100.689 billion yuan, up 11.42% on a year-on-year basis. The Group now enters the ¥100 Billion Club.

The Beibu Gulf Port of Guangxi is the leading port that will drive Guangxi's overall reform, innovation, and development

The port construction to be an international hub is doing well. How would the Group make further development planning to achieve the first-class facility goal?

By the end of 2021, Mr. Li Yanqiang, Chairman of the Beibu Gulf Port Group, said that the Group will adhere to its overall direction, which is “To make the Beibu Gulf Port competitive, to further develop the New Corridor, to link up the Northern, Eastern, and Western regions, and to expand the Southeast Asian market”. The Group will speed up promoting a batch of key projects in port and waterway construction, such as the ones about the New Land-Sea Trade Corridor, and will increase both the near-sea routes and ocean-going routes to lay a solid foundation for the port to become an international hub.

According to Mr. Li, the Group will invest RMB 67.6 billion yuan in port facility construction in the next five years, in which the large and specialized port construction will be the main focus, such as the 300,000-ton-class deep water berth and the 200,000-ton-class automatic container terminal. The number of 10,000-ton-class berths will be increased from 90 at the end of the 13th Five-Year Plan to 120 by the end of the 14th Five-Year Plan, which will increase the port’s traffic capacity and container handling capacity by 200 million tons and 5.4 million TEUs respectively. The scale of increase is equivalent to having another Beibu Gulf Port.

These major infrastructure projects mainly include the commencement of the construction of the 300,000-ton-class waterway at the Tieshan Port in Beihai, the completion of the East Waterway of Qinzhou Port and the 300,000-ton-class port entrance of Fangchenggang Port, and the follow-up construction of existing projects, such as the 1# and 2# berth of the Chisha Operation Zone in Qisha Port Area of Fangchenggang Port, the dedicated port for Fangchenggang Iron & Steel Base, and the CSSC Guangxi 40,000-ton-class ro-ro port in Qinzhou Port, etc.

Great oaks from little acorns grow. It is reasonable and necessary for the Beibu Gulf Port to lay a solid foundation with facilities construction to become an international hub in the future. As it keeps breaking its capacity limits and improving its weak links with facilities construction, it is convincing that the name of the international hub the port longs for will soon fall on its shoulder. 

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