China’s European port interests mapped 

Chinese container port interests in Europe have been making plenty of headlines in recent years. Putting their total presence across the continent into perspective analysts at Alphaliner have produced a map (see above) which shows that with the exception of the Adriatic Chinese companies now have port facilities in every corner of the continent.

Chinese companies held investments in 31 container seaport terminals in Europe as of end-August, according to Alphaliner, of which 23 are held by state-controlled companies COSCO and China Merchants while eight are controlled by Hong Kong’s privately held Hutchison Ports. All China Merchants’ European port investments – bar one in Turkey – come via its joint venture with CMA CGM, Terminal Link.

China’s entrance into the European ports scene first hit controversy in 2016 with COSCO’s takeover of Piraeus, Greece’s top port. It also stimulated national debate in Germany over the past year with COSCO’s minority stake investment in a terminal in Hamburg. 

“Concern over Chinese domination of terminals is unlikely to focus on the number of terminals but the degree of individual control,” Alphaliner pointed out, noting that as of mid-2023, Chinese state-owned players held full or large majority control in only two European ports: Piraeus and Zeebrugge.

Concern over foreign direct investment (FDI) in European infrastructure prompted the European Union to adopt new rules in December.

Aimed at ensuring “the resilience of critical entities”, the new rules call for the monitoring of potential threats posed by FDI in European assets including ports.