SANTIAGO DE CUBA, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- Cuban and Chinese national flags fly side by side in Santiago de Cuba in southeastern Cuba, where an ambitious cooperation project is underway to modernize the port.
With 120 million U.S. dollars in loan from the Chinese government, the two countries are here jointly building Cuba's second largest port on the easternmost tip of the Caribbean island.
The project was launched in June 2015 and is currently in the construction phase, employing some 200 Chinese and Cuban workers.
"I had never seen workers working with such a speed and so much attention to details," engineer and Santiago native Carlos Manuel Dominguez told Xinhua.
Dominguez, who has more than two decades of working experience, most recently in building hotels at Cuba's beach resort of Varadero, was contracted by the China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC) to supervise the renovation of the dock, located between the Gascon and Yarayo rivers, on the northwestern edge of the bay.
Workers are in the process of building a multifunctional 250-meter-long reinforced-concrete dock that will feature five high-tech gantry cranes, three with a capacity of 50 tons and two, of 30 tons, to load and unload some 565,000 tons of merchandise a year.
The multipurpose terminal will diminish the cost of freighting operations, for both imports and exports, while creating jobs and generating other socioeconomic benefits, especially for the eastern provinces.
"This project serves the economic development of eastern Cuba," said Chinese port engineer Ma Xichao, who heads the project.
Ma, who also worked in Angola for several years, believes the project "will positively influence all eastern Cuba," by boosting the area's capacity to handle larger ships and more trade.
Once construction is completed by June 2018, Santiago de Cuba will be the country's second largest port, after Mariel, located 50 km west of the capital Havana.
The facilities also include two roofed warehouses able to store 5,040 tons of general cargo and 10,080 tons of dry cargo, and an outdoor storage area for containers of all kinds, with advanced lifting, traction, and transport equipment to speed up operations, as well as an advanced weighing system for loads.
The port, which will be connected by rails and roads with the rest of the country, has been dredged to a depth of 14 meters to accommodate ships carrying up to 55,000 tons of cargo. Previously, the limit was 30,000 tons.
Santiago's sheltered bay is home to numerous strategic industries, including a cement factory, an oil refinery, two shipyards and wheat mills, and is close to key maritime routes in international trade.