Peru’s megaport aims to reshape region’s maritime traffic

The once-sleepy fishing town of Chancay, 80km north of Lima, used to be best known as a weekend getaway for residents of the capital. But, today, the beachfront is a sprawling construction site, with cranes shifting pillars as dumper trucks rumble around below.

The town is about to become host to one of the largest deepwater ports in Latin America. Construction and operation will be carried out entirely by private companies — something officials say could be a model for other infrastructure works in Peru. The project is so huge it has the potential to upend maritime traffic all along the Pacific coast of South America, displacing it from Chile, Ecuador and Colombia. In its initial phase, the port is expected to handle 1mn containers and 6mn tonnes of loose cargo a year.

Cosco Shipping, a Chinese state-backed shipping and logistics company, has a 60 per cent stake in the port, with the remainder in the hands of Volcan, a Peruvian mining company. Of the $3.6bn cost of construction, $1.3bn has already been invested in the initial phase, according to Cosco.

“The intention of the port is to pull South American countries towards Peru as a focal point [for trade to Asia], taking advantage of our strategic location,” says Gonzálo Ríos Polastri, deputy general manager of Cosco Shipping Ports Chancay Peru and a former admiral. “It will be an engine for development across several industries.”

The port will sit on a 280-hectare site. The wave breakers alone used enough concrete to construct 20 buildings of 10 storeys and will protect 1.5km of dock space, capable of berthing some of the world’s largest cargo ships.

A 1.8km tunnel bored beneath Chancay — at some points 900m deep — will connect the pier to a logistics centre and the pan-American highway without disrupting traffic in the town.

Cargo will be able to reach China from Peru in 10 days, rather than 45 at present. And Brazil is also expected to be a beneficiary of the port, which will provide quicker access to Asian markets for the country’s exports. Brazil and Peru are connected by the Southern Interoceanic Highway, which passes through the Brazilian agricultural hubs of Acre and Rondônia.

“There’s a whole part of Brazil that looks much more to the Pacific than to the Atlantic,” says Ríos Polastri. “Chancay has many advantages within Peru, and one is that it is the closest port to Brazil. That’s another incentive for trade.”

The inauguration of the megaport is planned for late next year, when Chinese president Xi Jinping will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, which Peru is hosting. Cosco says the port will eventually expand. “The master plan is to have 15 piers, though there’s no timeline as we need to see how the port operates in the first few years,” Ríos Polastri explains.

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