The five port project creates float all boats scenario for the BRI in Europe
While the acquisition of the Greek port of Piraeus is the best-known instance of China expanding its port holdings in Europe, it is just the beginning of their strategy in the region.
As part of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative, China and Italy are financing the less-publicised Five Ports Alliance, a major container terminal partnership in the northern Adriatic. The project, managed by the Northern Adriatic Port Association, involves the three Italian ports of Venice, Trieste, and Ravenna, as well as the Slovenian port of Capodistria and Fiume in Croatia. Once completed, it will create a docking system for large container ships using an offshore platform at the port of Malamocco near Venice that will allow Chinese cargo ships that go through the Suez Canal to unload products for rail connections throughout Europe.
The final destination for many of these Chinese-made goods is northern Europe, and they will travel there via Germany and Switzerland after being unloaded at the Adriatic ports. Mediterranean, Balkan and Central European countries have been more eager than Northern Europe to obtain Chinese investment. But even if they were competing with, say, Hamburg for Chinese capital, the Adriatic ports are well-located for China’s Belt and Road effort. Along with Piraeus, the Five Port Alliance serves as China’s strategic logistical hub that links the Maritime Silk ‘Road’ from East Asia through the Middle East, East Africa, and the Red Sea to Europe.
“Maybe, at a later stage, China will make a play for port and connectivity assets that serve northern Europe,” says Sourabh Gupta, an Asia-Pacific international relations policy expert at the Institute for China-America Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. “But for the time being, I think they’ve decided to concentrate and consolidate their strategic commercial presence in the broader Mediterranean area and to use it as a jumping-off point down the line to deepen its physical presence within European commercial networks.”