Nothing better demonstrates the value of interconnection, communication, co-construction and sharing than Ports, Luc Arnouts, Vice President of the Belgian Port of Antwerp, has told.

“As a Belgian saying goes putting your hands in the river, you will connect the whole world,” he said on the sidelines of the World Ports Conference 2019 (WPC) that runs from Wednesday through Friday in China’s southern city of Guangzhou.

On the eve of the international gathering of Port operators, the Dutch Port of Rotterdam and the Chinese Port of Guangzhou formally established a sister-port relationship on Tuesday, enabling the two world-class Ports, also crucial hubs on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, to enhance cooperation on sustainability and digitisation.

At the WPC, themed “Open Cooperation, Shared Future,” constructors and operators of ports around the world also expressed their expectations and hope for increasing connectivity and prosperity.

From Trainees to Trainers

Antwerp port, the second-largest port in Europe, has grown into the most prestigious training institution for the port business in the world. Over the last several decades, the training institution there has trained a large number of professionals for Chinese Ports.

On his visit to Antwerp in June 2015, Yuan Yue, Deputy Director of Guangzhou Port Authority, expressed his willingness to set up a similar training institution in Guangzhou through cooperation with the Antwerp Port Authority.

Six months later, the Guangzhou-Antwerp Port Training & Consultancy Company (GAPEC) was formally registered. Within two years, GAPEC has trained over 100 staffers from 10 countries.

“These trainees are showing great interest in management skills and information technology of Chinese Ports, so we are moving the classes to the port site,” said GAPEC President Huang Jian.

The Port of Tanjung Priok in Indonesia, the Russian Port of St. Petersburg and Solomon Islands Port Authority, among others, are sending their staff to Guangzhou to take training courses. In June, GAPEC will roll out two customised training programs for Arab countries and African countries. In August, an advanced workshop on port logistics will be held on an international level.

Arnouts said Antwerp Port is planning to create consulting business in Guangzhou. “We want to have more cooperation with the Port of Guangzhou,” he said.

Rapid Development

As many WPC participants have noted, GAPEC’s boom can be explained by the strong attraction to the rapid development of Chinese Ports, which feature openness and cooperation.

“In recent years, Chinese Ports have grown very rapidly. For young Ports like the Port of Acu of Brazil, Chinese Ports have already become a benchmark in the areas of Port infrastructure, logistics and management,” said Tessa Major, Vice President of Acu Port, with which Guangzhou Port also established a sister-port relationship on Wednesday.

The attraction of Chinese Ports nowadays, above all, comes from the growth of volume. In 1978, the cargo throughput of Chinese Ports was only 280 million tons while in 2018, China’s Ports completed 14.35 billion tons of cargo throughput, with seven ports ranking among the top 10 cargo throughput ports in the world.

In addition, Li Tianbi, safety director of the Chinese Ministry of Transportation, said the scale of Chinese ports has consistently ranked first in the world for many years.

“In the fields of deepwater port construction, port industry, port machinery and manufacturing technology of handling equipment, we are all already up to the advanced world level,” Li said.

“The experience of port development in China can be used for reference by many countries. Over the past few years, Chinese ports have done a great job, leading the world in terms of productivity and cost control,” said Tim Smith, chief executive of APM Terminals Asia.

Calling Chinese ports the active participants of global ports cooperation, Santiago Mila, president of the International Association of Ports and Harbours, said he believes China’s new round of opening-up will continuously invigorate the development of global ports.

“The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will not only further promote Chinese maritime trade, but also create more port hub cities,” said Mila.

Mutual Learning for Global Boom

Up to the end of 2018, China has participated in the construction of 42 Ports in 32 countries, including the Greek Port of Piraeus, the Sri Lankan Port of Hambantota and the Pakistani Port of Gwadar.

Piraeus, the biggest Port of Greece, and operated by China’s COSCO Shipping, is now one of the fastest growing container ports in the world. At the 2019 WPC, “digitisation” and “sustainability” are among the words most frequently used by the participants.

“Chinese Ports continue to promote industry development and accelerate the construction of smart ports through scientific and technological innovation. Chinese experience and wisdom on port development contribute a lot to this global industry,” said Chen Yingming, executive vice president of China Ports and Harbours Association.

Meanwhile, the operators of Chinese Ports hope to learn more about business management, Port-rail and port-air intermodal transport from their large counterparts in Europe and North America to better realise global port cooperation, said GAPEC President Huang.

Editor’s note: The article reflects the author’s opinion only, and not necessarily the views of editorial opinion of Belt & Road News.