SHENYANG, Dec. 28 -- The national drive to develop sea transportation has made China's northern-most sea port of Dandong a new hub in the booming northeastern region.
The port, located in Dandong, Liaoning Province at the northern extremity of China's coastline, is expected to reach a total cargo turnover of 120 million tonnes this year, exceeding the benchmark of 100 million tonnes for the first time. The volume in 2012 was 96 million tonnes.
"Our dream of establishing a giant modern international port is being realized," said Zhang Hongjiang, vice president of the Dandong Port Group.
Over the past three years, the group has poured more than 10 billion yuan (1.64 billion U.S. dollars) annually into developing new berths, new sea routes and and other functional facilities, according to Zhang.
The group is currently building a dock for 300,000-tonne vessels to be loaded with ore. By 2015, the port plans to have a cargo handling capacity of 400 million tonnes, with 60 deep-water berths to be built.
Apart from increasing cargo capacity, the port has deep-water routes, special docks, modern facilities and automated cargo collection and distribution.
The growth of Dandong is part of China's oceanic economy development plan. According to the five-year plan by the State Council, China's Cabinet, last September, a total cargo turnover of 7.8 billion tonnes, will be provided by more than 2,200 deep-water berths built across the country's sea ports by 2015.
Dandong is a border city between China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, near Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Mongolia and Russia. This unique geographical advantage has made Dandong a hub for land-sea transportation, with sea routes connecting to 90 ports in more than 70 countries and regions, said Dai Yulin, secretary of the Dandong City Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Dai believes another reason for the port's quick growth is the rapid development for railways and expressways in northeast China, rich in coal, iron ore, timber, and a major base for grain producer.
In September of 2012, the railway linking Tonghua, a mining city in Jilin Province, and Dandong was opened. On the same day, two expressways also opened, connecting Tonghua to Dandong and Fushun, a prefecture-level city in a forestry and mining area.
"These projects have become new accessways to the sea to and from the provinces of northeast China, helping increase the cargo turnover of Dandong," Dai said.
The Dandong-Tonghua expressway, for example, has cut travel time from six to three hours, attracting more business from Tonghua through Dandong instead of other a ports like Yingkou, 200 km further away, he said.
Eyeing the transport advantages of Dandong, transnational companies, including the ROK's SK Corp., POSCO, and Harman of the U.S., have chosen the city as their headquarters in northeast Asia.
Domestic companies in iron and steel, coal mines, grain production and other sectors also plan new plants in the city, hoping their products can be delivered abroad at lower cost.
A keynote report delivered at the 18th National Congress of the CPC last November said China would encourage coastal, inland and border areas to draw on each other's strengths in opening up.
With the new transport network, the northeastern region can support expansion of Dandong Port, from which Dandong City itself will benefit, said Xiao Xingzhi, professor at Dongbei University of Finance and Economics.
Xiao said a port with an annual cargo handling capacity of more than 100 million tonnes would secure 200,000 jobs in the region, meaning every tonne of cargo brings social revenue of 100 yuan.