China-Portugal Ties: Port of Sines looks for role in Belt and Road Initiative
Authorities at Portugal's southern deepwater port of Sines say that the area could play a key role in China's Belt and Road Initiative by enlarging its scope to the Atlantic Ocean. The government's plan to build a new container terminal is also attracting attention from Chinese investors. Zhang He has this report.
Port of Sines is the main maritime hub in Portugal. The town is also the birthplace of explorer Vasco da Gama, who found a direct sea route from Europe to India through the Atlantic Ocean. His discovery enabled Portugal to establish rich trade with Asia countries.
FERNANDA ILHEU, PRESIDENT NEW SILK ROAD FRIENDS ASSOCIATION "Portugal has a history which is linked to our historical movement of 15th and 16th century. We were the first Europeans to arrive China, so that means we have a Maritime Silk Road, the first Maritime Silk Road. Now China proposed us another way coming from China to the West, a new way to Europe, to cooperate, to make trades, to work together."
After decades of development, the Port of Sines has grown into an important port for cargo containers. It can receive the largest vessels in the world and operates more than 5,000 container trains per year to and from Europe.
ZHANG HE SINES, PORTUGAL "Sines is Portugal's busiest commercial port, handling nearly half of the country's total cargo volume. Portugal hopes the port can further promote Europe-Asia connectivity, under China's Belt and Road Initiative."
Portugal's government has signaled its willingness to develop the port as part of the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, deepening the connection between Asia, Europe, Africa, and South America. It also plans to expand the railway link to Madrid, which would further strengthen its trade relationship with China.
PAULO AFONSO BRARDO DUARTE, RESEARCHER UNIVERSITY OF MINHO "Think about the map. Geography of Portugal. It is the main entrance for Europe coming by sea and final way of railways coming from China, where land ends and sea begins and vice versa. So that's why you hear a lot about Sines."
Port of Sines authorities are now seeking to add a new container terminal to handle an increase of the transshipment. The tendering process will start at the end of this year. The Portuguese government already sent a trade mission to China to lure investors for the nearly $679 million container project.
JOSE LUIS CACHO, CEO PORTS OF SINES AND ALGARVE AUTHORITY "We have noticed the interest of Chinese enterprise to know more about this projects and they recognize that it is a great potential investment. In addition to the business mission, we have also received several delegations from Chinese companies. We are willing to run about the operation from the Port of Sines about the new Vasco da Gama Terminal."
Portugal has been a seafaring nation for many centuries. Officials here hope this port will help the country reaffirm its key position on the new Maritime Silk Road. Zhang He, CGTN, Sines, Portugal.