From the start of this decade to the present day Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have leapt to snap up an astonishing amount of container terminal capacity in Europe. Latest statistics from the OECD’s International Transport Forum show Chinese SOEs, led by Cosco, now control 10% of European container terminal capacity, up from less than 1% at the start of the decade.
More pertinently the data provided by the International Transport Forum shows that while Chinese SOEs have been able to buy up majority stakes in ports across Europe, Beijing has not reciprocated with no European terminal operator able to hold a majority holding of any port in the People’s Republic.
With the unleashing of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, the massive infrastructure project led by president Xi Jinping yoking Asia with Europe, the largest jump in Chinese SOE container terminal acquisitions in Europe was seen in 2017, with Chinese state-backed port holdings in the continent jumping from around 6.5% to 10%.
The frustration among European terminal operators at not being able to hold majority stakes in ports across China, the world’s leading container destination, has also been mirrored by liners across the globe. China’s cabotage rules continue to bar foreign container lines from operating intra-China routes.