Journal of Global Change Data & Discovery2019.3(3):234-243


Citation:Li, H. M., Wu, M. Q., Niu, Z., et al.Dataset Development of Overseas Port Project of China (1979-2019)[J]. Journal of Global Change Data & Discovery,2019.3(3):234-243 .DOI: 10.3974/geodp.2019.03.03 .

Dataset Development of Overseas Port Project of China (1979–2019)

Li, H. M.1  Wu, M. Q.2*  Niu, Z.2  Jia, Z. H.3

1. Faculty of Geomatics, East China University of Technology, Nanchang 330013, China;

2. The State Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing Science, Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China;

3. College of Earth Sciences, Chengdu University of Technology, Chengdu 610059, China



Abstract: As an important node of the Belt and Road initiative, ports have a decisive role in its construction. China currently has a large number of international ports built overseas, but there is no official list of projects published on the official platform. It is difficult to obtain information on the investment amounts of some port projects and Chinese cooperation units, so it is difficult to perform comprehensive statistical work. This paper used search engines, official websites of major overseas ports, WeChat Official Account and Sina Weibo to obtain data of China’s overseas port projects from 1979 to 2019. This dataset summarizes existing port projects. There are currently a total of 101 projects, which are divided into five categories according to the following cooperation methods: contract construction type, acquisition type, investment and construction type, aid construction type, and lease type. In addition, the number of ports in each continent was identified. A total of 90 projects whose the investment amount data were obtained were ranked according to the total investment amount. A detailed analysis of the construction of port projects with large investment amounts provides a useful reference for other Chinese enterprises when building projects overseas.

Keywords: China; The Maritime Silk Road; port; internet; distribution pattern; investment

1 Introduction

The 21st century maritime Silk Road is a new concept that was proposed by General Secretary Xi Jinping during his visit to Association of Southeast Asian Nations in October 2013. In 2013, the third plenary session of the 18th Communist Party of China central committee positioned the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road as an important national development strategy[1]. The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is of great significance in promoting domestic economic transformation and development, economic and trade exchanges between countries, mutual penetration and integration of national cultures, and establishing a new international economic and political order[2–3]. In his speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in 2014, President Xi, Jinping stressed that key landmark projects should be performed to advance the building of the 21st century maritime Silk Road. Ports are the connecting channels for goods to and from water and the transfer point of transport mode. With the function of resource allocation, ports can attract large domestic and foreign enterprises to allocate resources on the land behind the port area and form an international and regional processing base and logistics distribution center. Therefore, port construction should be the focus of maritime Silk Road construction[4].

China has contracted and invested in many overseas ports, making China’s construction international and constantly improving the strength of Chinese enterprises. By fully enabling the advantages of China’s port construction experience, the port infrastructure of countries along the maritime Silk Road will constantly be improving, and host countries will be helped to develop their port-based industries and hinterland economies to realize large-scale and modern development of ports. China’s port construction projects have effectively driven the investment and employment of host countries and have strengthened the connectivity between countries, realized economic common prosperity and trade complementarity, established the image of China as a large country, and expanded China’s influence in the region.

Sang[5] studied the Piraeus port, a European port invested and built by China, and claims there are two problems in port investment: the competition within the port, and political pressure and social resistance. Sun and Bai[6] studied the current situation and prospect of the Djibouti port built by China and believed that the infrastructure construction of the port could become China's representative of cooperation in East Africa, but political risks and economic still are problems. Wen[7] conducted a study on the Chinese port of Sri Lanka and claimed that internal political and economic forces and external powers interfered with the project cooperation. Hei and Liu[8] studied the Gwadar and Huangjing ports on the maritime Silk Road, which guarantee the security of China’s energy imports and exports. Yang et al.[9] studied the layout of Chinese ports in East Africa and analyzed the national conditions of port construction, conditions of distribution and transportation and the current situation of ports. Yang et al.[10] categorized the ports built by China’s harbors in Africa and proposed that the current mode of cooperation in African port projects should be geared towards adopting more joint ventures with local enterprises and that there is a greater risk of sole proprietorship. Yuan et al.[11] studied the port cooperation between China and ASEAN countries and believed that cooperation with ASEAN countries has various forms and remarkable results. They proposed building a new mechanism of economic cooperation, deepening three-dimensional cooperation between ports, and promoting comprehensive transportation connectivity between land, sea and air. Zhao[12] performed statistical work on 36 port projects along “the Belt and Road” and analyzed project modes and investment risks. Zuo[13] studied the selected sites of 30 ports on the 21st century maritime Silk Road and proposed suggestions to promote the construction of strategic pivot ports.

The previous research presented shows that most of the current data on China’s overseas port construction are studies on individual cases. A few discuss regional ports, but few discuss international ports built by China from a global perspective. In the existing studies, the number of port project statistics is small, and it is difficult to fully determine the number and relevant situation of China’s overseas port construction.

By collecting scattered reporting materials and relevant articles, this paper collects and sorts the list and positioning data of China’s overseas port projects and analyses the distribution of China’s overseas ports, classifies existing port projects and explores the distribution of each type of port. The data of the investment amount are collected, and the investment risk of port projects with a large investment amount is analyzed to provide a useful reference for other enterprises to build ports overseas.

2 Metadata of Dataset

The “Dataset of China oversea port projects during the last forty years (1979–2019)”[14], including its name, author, geographic region, data age, data set composition, data publishing and sharing service platform, data sharing policy and other information are shown in Table 1.

Table 1  Metadata summary of “Dataset of China oversea port projects during the last forty years (19792019)”



Dataset full name

Dataset of China oversea port projects during the last forty years (1979–2019)

Dataset short name



Li, H. M. X-4876-2019, East China University of Technology,

Wu, M. Q. X-4362-2019, The State Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing Science, Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, Chinese Academy of Sciences,

Niu, Z. M-9923-2017, The State Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing Science, Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, Chinese Academy of Sciences,

Jia, Z. H. X-4878-2019, College of Earth Sciences, Chengdu University of Technology,

Geographical region

Geographical range: 38°43′12″S–59°33′36″N, 127°13′12″W–153°11′24″E, including Asia, Europe, Africa, the Pacific, North America, and South America



Data format


Data size

97.7 KB

Data files

The data set includes an excel data file which mainly includes: name of the port project to be built overseas by China, country and continent where the project is located, time of project construction and (expected) completion, total investment amount of the project, mode of cooperation, enterprises cooperating with China, and data sources


Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA19030304, 2017089 )

Data publisher

Global Change Research Data Publishing & Repository,


No. 11A, Datun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100101, China

Data sharing policy

Data from the Global Change Research Data Publishing & Repository includes metadata, datasets (data products), and publications (in this case, in the Journal of Global Change Data & Discovery). Data sharing policy includes: (1) Data are openly available and can be freely downloaded via the Internet; (2) End users are encouraged to use Data subject to citation; (3) Users, who are by definition also value-added service providers, are welcome to redistribute Data subject to written permission from the GCdataPR Editorial Office and the issuance of a Data redistribution license; and (4) If Data are used to compile new datasets, the ‘ten percent principal’ should be followed such that Data records utilized should not surpass 10% of the new dataset contents, while sources should be clearly noted in suitable places in the new dataset[15]

Communication and searchable system



3 Data Collection and Processing

3.1 Data Collection


Figure 1  Data collection and processing flow chart

First, we collected the list of ports that China had built overseas through the following five methods: (1) Search for relevant information, such as China’s ports built in Africa, through search engines (e.g., Baidu); (2) Enter some official website inquiries for overseas investment projects, such as the website of the Ministry of Commerce of P. R. China; (3) Enter the official website of companies and their subsidiaries that have built many ports abroad, such as China Harbour Engineering Company Limited, China Merchants International Company Limited, China COSCO Shipping Holdings Company Limited; (4) Search for relevant WeChat public accounts, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the Belt and Road Economic Belt, and the Belt and Road Initiative Sharing Platform to find information related to the port; (5) Focus on the official Sina Weibo account dynamics, such as China’s port network and port circle. Then, according to the list search for relevant information, and obtain the detailed information such as the country, region, and continent where the port is located, implementation unit, start date, completion time, construction situation, cooperation mode, and investment amount (Figure 1).

3.2 Data Location

First, according to the name of the collected port project, find the country where the project is located, search for the administrative division map of the country and find the city where the project is built. By searching for information related to the port, such as the port picture under construction and the starting year of construction, the existing enterprise construction and the newly built port in China are differentiated. Lastly, on Google Earth, we locate the specific location of China’s construction port.

3.3 Overseas Port Classification

Up to now, most of the foreign ports where Chinese enterprises invest or construct are commercial ports. According to the project cooperation mode, this paper is divided into five categories: contractor type, acquisition type, investment construction type, aid construction type and lease type. The port of the same category is compiled into a number; the port point file of the determined location is saved and imported into the ArcGIS software and base map is added for drawing.

3.4 Technical Route

First, the information collection work includes the name of the port project that China is building overseas, country and continent where the project is located, project construction time, construction situation, total investment amount of the project, and enterprises that cooperate with China. Based on the collected information, a summary table is created, the port items are classified and the location of the port is determined, and the global distribution map of the port is finally produced.

4 Data Verification

To ensure the accuracy and validity of the data, in the process of collecting the list, the information published by the website of the Belt and Road official website and the official website of the company is preferred. Each piece of data is included after multiple cross-checks. In the process of collecting cooperation units, there are many enterprises that are only involved in the construction, and it is necessary to determine the companies that mainly perform the construction work. After the collection work is completed, Jia, Zhanhai of this working group cross-checked the data and corrected the problems in the data, such as troubleshooting the website and specifying the project name. A total of 9 project names and 28 data sources were modified, and the information was modified for a second verification and the data was verified.

5 Results

5.1 Distribution Pattern of China’s Overseas Ports

In the past two decades, China has invested or built 101 overseas port projects, including 55 contracted construction projects, 14 acquisition projects, 21 investment and construction projects, 6 aid construction projects, and 5 lease projects. The distribution map of China’s overseas construction in 1979–2019 is listed in Figure 2 and Figure 3.

Figure 2  Overseas ports constructed by China

Figure 3  Percent of constructed port in each continent

These ports are located in all continents and regions of the world. In Asia, China has the largest number of overseas ports, up to 37, accounting for 36.63% of the total. Among them, there are 16 in Southeast Asia, two in East Asia, 12 in West Asia and 7 in South Asia. China has the second-largest number of overseas ports in Africa; China has 33 ports in Africa, accounting for 32.67% of the total. Among them, there are 12 in West Africa, 11 in East Africa, one in South Africa and 4 in North Africa. Regarding the number of ports in other regions, there are 11 in Europe (including Russia), 9 in South America, 6 in North America and 5 in the Pacific.

5.2 Ranking of Port Investment

The amount of investment determines the level of development and importance of a port. By finding relevant information, there were 90 ports with investment data. According to the amount of investment in the port, the port projects were ranked (Tables 2–3).

Table 2  China ranks in the top ten for overseas construction ports


Project name

Starting time

Total investment

(108 U.S. dollars)

Cooperation mode

Cooperation entity from China


Tanzania's Bagamoyo Port and Special Economic Zone Project

May 2018


Investment and construction

China Merchants Group


Malaysia Malacca Huangjing Port Project

Oct. 2016


Investment and construction

China Power Construction Group


50-year lease project in Melbourne, Australia

Sep. 2016



China’s sovereign wealth fund CIC


Algeria Schershale New Port Project

Feb. 2016


Investment and construction

Chinese Architecture and China Harbour jointly built


North Korea Luoxian Special Zone 4-6 Pier 50 Years of Use Rights Project

Mar. 2010



Government of China


Guara Ningyi International Port Project in Malacca, Malaysia

Apr. 2017


Investment and construction

China Railway Port Authority Group


Singapore Pasir Panjang New Berth Project

Jun. 2015


Investment and construction

China COSCO Shipping Group


New Point Project in Pointe Noire, Republic of the Congo

Feb. 2016


Contract construction

China Road and Bridge


Sri Lanka Colombo Port City Phase I Project

Sep. 2014


Investment and construction

China Communications Construction


Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port Project

Jan. 2008


Aid construction

China Harbour and China Hydropower jointly build

Note: The above relevant data are from the official platform: China’s port network, shipping industry and the state-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council.

According to the collected construction data, the top ten overseas construction ports are generally located in important locations and have a large area, a large number of vessels docked at the docks, large container throughput, relatively developed port economy and stable society. In addition, the top ports are mostly large-scale integrated development port projects (in addition to port construction, there are government public, commercial, residential, port terminals and industrial projects). However, the top ten ports are mostly single-type projects with a relatively small footprint.

Table 3  China ranks in the bottom ten for overseas construction ports


Project name

Starting time

Total investment

(108 U.S. dollars)

Cooperation mode

Cooperation entity from China


Angola Fishing Port Project Terminal and Dredging Project

Jun. 2015


Contract construction

China Petroleum and Natural Gas Pipeline Bureau


San Antonio Pier Expansion Project in Chile

Mar. 2015


Contract construction

China Harbour


About 76% equity acquisition project in Zeebrugge, Belgium

Nov. 2017



 COSCO Shipping


New Port Project under the Abaco Island Loan in the Bahamas North

Jun. 2014


Contract construction

China Harbour


Mozambique Beira Port Dredging Project

Nov. 2018



China Road and Bridge


Abu Dhabi Kanai Island Pier and Breakwater Works

Jun. 2009



CCCC first harbor engineering company limited


New container terminal project in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Mar. 2011



China Shanghai Construction Engineering Group


Ukrainian Ilychovsk Port Inlet Channel Dredging Project

Aug. 2018



China Harbor


Dilava Port Oil Depot EPC General Contracting Project

Nov. 2017



Sinochem Second Construction Group


Expansion project of the No. 7 berth yard (South) of the container port of Manila, Philippines

Mar. 2015



China Harbor

Note: The above relevant data are from the official platform: China’s port network, shipping industry and the state-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council.

5.3 Analysis of Factors Affecting Port Construction

Large-scale comprehensive development projects are local key construction projects that have far-reaching impacts on the economic development of a country. However, from the time of winning the bid to signing the contract and then starting construction to completion, the projects are affected by various risks. The following is a description of the progress of five large-scale integrated projects:

(1) Comprehensive development project in Bagamoyo, Tanzania

The Bagamoyo Port is known as “Shenzhen in Tanzania” and is about 75 km from Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. The project was undertaken by the China Merchants Group with a total investment of 1.0×1010 U.S. dollars. The project includes an ultra-modern port covering an area of 8 km2, an industrial park of 17 km2, and auxiliary infrastructure such as roads; railway networks; and water, electricity, gas and communication networks. The port aims to address congestion at the old port and support Tanzania as the main shipping and logistics hub in East Africa.

China and Tanzania signed a preliminary framework agreement on the port of Bagamoyo in 2013, but the new Tanzanian president decided to put the project on hold after he took office. It was not until November 2016 that the project of the Bagamoyo Port project was taken seriously and regarded as a milestone project of the current government. On October 3, 2017, the issue of financial compensation for the transferred people was resolved. On May 21, 2018, the negotiations between China and the Tanzanian government on the construction of the port of Bagamoyo and the special economic zone made good progress, paving the way for the long-delayed construction work[16]. As explained, the slow progress of the port project is mainly due to the government and funds.

(2) Malaysia Malacca Huangjing Port Project

The Malaysia Malacca Huangjing Port, in the East-West trade hub with a blend of diverse cultures, is Malaysia’s largest man-made island and a large-scale integrated development. Constructed by China Power Construction, this project is estimated to cost 4×1010 Ringgit (about 9.517×109 U.S. dollars) and covers an area of 1,366 acres (about 5.528 km2). This port consists of three people constructed islands and one natural island, with a coastline of 15 km, and is expected to be completed in 2025. After the construction, the Huangjing Port will replace the Singapore Port and become the largest port in the Straits of Malacca, further enhancing Malaysia’s economic development.

In October 2016, the groundbreaking ceremony was held at the Huangjing Port Deep-water Supply Terminal, which was built by China Power Construction Corporation[17]. For the project to proceed smoothly, the Chinese contractor paid for the project first. In October 2018, the project fee of tens of millions of Ringgit (1 Malaysian Ringgit=1.7061 RMB) was owed. In addition, government policy is uncertain, and the contractor has suspended project construction[18]. The construction of the port was also paused because of the break of the capital chain and government policies.

(3) Sri Lanka Colombo Port City Project

Located in the heart of the central business district of Colombo, Colombo Port new town is the largest foreign investment in Sri Lanka’s history. It was built by the China Harbor and China Communications and Broadcasting Bureau. The investment in the first phase of the project was 1.4×109 U.S. dollars, which led to a secondary development investment of about 1.3×1010 U.S. dollars. Construction of the new city of Colombo Port began on September 17, 2014. The construction plan is to build a port city with golf courses, hotels, shopping centers, water sports areas, apartments and marinas through land reclamation over 20–25 years. After the project is completed, it will create about 83,000 stable employment jobs for the Sri Lankan population, providing more people with reliable living guarantee and improving their living standards.

In January 2015, after the new government of Sri Lanka took office, Sino-Sri Lanka relations degraded. The project was soon unilaterally stopped by the new government on the grounds of a “lack of relevant approval procedures” and a “review of environmental assessment”[19]. After President Sirisena came to power, he resumed the construction of the port city project in March 2016[20]. At present, 60% of the land reclamation project in the port city project has been completed, and the rest is expected to be completed in June 2019. The port was built slowly mainly because of the governmental reasons.

(4) Deep-water Port, Myanmar Special Economic Zone

The project was undertaken by the Citic Consortium and construction was slated to occur over four phases. The project includes the construction of a terminal that can accommodate two or three merchant ships and the construction of two additional terminals on the islands of Madeira and Langley near the Jiaopiao port. Upon completion, it will be the largest deep-water port in Myanmar, becoming an economic and efficient regional multi-purpose container port.

At the end of 2015, CITIC Consortium won the bid for the industrial park and deep-water port project in the Jiaopiao Special Economic Zone in western Myanmar. However, the project had been paused because of the failure of the parties to agree on specific financing details[21]. Until November 8, 2018, Citic Group signed the framework agreement for the deep-water port project. The two sides agreed that in the first phase of the project, 1.3×109 U.S. dollars will be invested in the construction of the deep-water port. The construction of the port originally planned to include 10 berths, but this has now been reduced to two[21]. The port construction was paused mainly because of disputes over funding issues.

(5) Russia’s Zarubino Universal Harbour Project

The port of Zarubino is a natural non-freezing port on the southwestern shore of Troischa Bay in Hassan District, Primorsky Krai, Russia, only 60 km from Hunchun City, Jilin province. China Merchants have participated in the construction of the port, with a total investment of about 1×109 U.S. dollars. The project includes dedicated grain terminals, container terminals, dedicated alumina terminals and general shipping terminals[22]. After completion of the port, its annual transhipment capacity will reach 6,000 tons, which will be used to connect the channels between China and Russia. The port will help the development and opening up of the Jilin Province and even Northeast China and promote the integration of the revitalisation of the old industrial bases in Northeast China and the development of the Far East of Russia. Thus, this port will promote the economic and trade cooperation between the Tumen River and Northeast Asia.

The participating parties have conducted several rounds of consultations, including cooperation models, shareholding ratios, and financing methods. The Jilin provincial government, China Merchants Group and Russia's Suma Group, which participated in the joint construction, have reached a preliminary consensus on relevant matters. The project plan has been submitted, and the cooperation agreement will be signed as soon as possible after approval from the central government[22]. The project is progressing in an orderly manner and is progressing smoothly.

6 Conclusion and Suggestion

Through the positioning and aggregation of China’s ports built around the world, the strength of China’s port construction has developed rapidly in the past two decades. Currently, 101 Chinese ports have been invested or built in other countries. However, many problems were also found in the statistical process. Through the analysis of the progress of the five large-scale comprehensive projects, the construction of a project is affected by many factors, such as human interference, insufficient funds, ecological damage, and policy changes. Among them, lack of funds and policy changes have a large impact on port construction. A small impact would mean the port project does not progress smoothly according to the original plan, while a heavy impact leads to the stagnation of port construction. Therefore, to better avoid these risks, China’s overseas ports should conduct all-round risk assessments, budget accordingly and ensure that sufficient funds are available.

Author Contributions

Wu, M. Q. made an overall design for the development of the data set; Niu, Z. conducted technical support and guidance; Li, H. M. collected and processed the data of the 101 Chinese ports, and ranked and analyzed the data, and wrote the data paper; Jia, Z. H. verified all the data.


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Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research,Chinese Academy of Sciences

The Geographical Society of China


Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) Task Group on Preservation of and Access to Scientific and Technical Data in/for/with Developing Countries (PASTD)

Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology

Digital Linchao GeoMuseum