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.