Construction to Commence on $3.3 Billion Deep-Water Port in Algeria, Backed by Chinese Financing and Chinese State-Owned Contractors
On March 22, it was reported that construction of Algeria’s new China-backed $3.3 billion commercial deep-water seaport would begin in May 2021 and take four years to complete. The new port, which will be situated near the town of Cherchell, is being constructed by a Chinese-Algerian consortium of companies that include state-owned China Harbour Engineering Corporation (CHEC), China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSEC), and Algeria’s Public Port Services Group under a contract awarded to the companies in 2016.
Once completed, the new port, which will be operated by state-owned Shanghai International Port Group for a period of 25-years, will be Algeria’s first and largest deep-water port and reportedly the second largest container port in Africa overall. Operational control of the port was guaranteed to SIPG in exchange for Chinese financing for the project. El Hamdania is touted by Chinese and Algerian officials as potentially transformative for Algeria’s status as a regional trade hub.
For Beijing, construction and operational management of the new port builds on a series of recent and similar investments by Chinese state-backed firms in the Mediterranean that include Israel’s Port of Haifa, the Port of Piraeus in Greece, and Port Said in Egypt’s Suez Canal region.
In addition to the economic and trade-related gains associated with these activities, some observers foresee these projects serving as door-openers for an increased Chinese military presence in the region. In recent years, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has made several port calls in the Mediterranean and has also participated in naval exercises in the region with Russia. In 2018, two Chinese naval ships visited the Port of Algiers for a four-day visit.
Situated approximately 70 kilometers from Algeria’s capital city of Algiers, El Hamdania port will be connected to Algerian railway lines, as well as the East-West highway – one of Algeria’s main land-based cross-country transport arteries that was also constructed by a Chinese consortium comprised of CITIC Corporation and China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC). The port is expected to compete with others in the region, such as Morocco’s Tanger Med deep-water port (also built with Chinese financing) and the Spanish ports of Valencia and Barcelona.