SHENYANG, July 5 (Xinhua) -- Mooring at anchorage, two sailors slowly drop a hanging ladder from a 100-meter-long cargo ship, and harbor pilot Pan Hongxue climbs down onto a tugboat.
Pan works at Yingkou harbor in northeast China's Liaoning Province. He and other pilots are responsible for guiding vessels in and out of berths to avoid stranding or collisions.
The ship came from Brazil, carrying 180,000-tonne of iron ore fines. "It has to wait a couple of days before unloading because all berths are occupied," Pan said.
Harbor staff say the port congestion has lasted over six months in Yingkou.
Around 40 to 50 ships await for unloading. Pan says vessels waiting in line reached up to 100 at peak time last winter.
"Growing import of bulk commodities like minerals and coal leads to port congestion," says Fan Wei, a manager with the harbor.
Liaoning is part of old heavy industry base in northeast China but has lost its shine in recent years due to shrinking resources and industrial overcapacity. Boosted by the Belt and Road Initiative and wider opening up, trade between the region and the rest of the world is rising.
Liaoning, the only province in northeast China with sea ports, saw export and import volume increase by 17.9 percent to 673.7 billion yuan (104 billion U.S. dollars) in 2017.
At a berth in Yingkou harbor, four loading machines are unloading 292,000 tonnes of iron ore fines from a 327-meter-long Brazilian vessel. The iron ore fines will be delivered by a conveyor belt to the Bayuquan factory affiliated to state-owned Ansteel Group Corporation 3.8 km away from the harbor.
Yu Xiangyang, deputy director of production department of the factory, says the factory plans to import 8 million tonnes of iron ore fines for production of 5.5 million tonnes of quality rolled steel this year.
Yu says government efforts to fight overcapacity in the iron and steel sector have prompted the factory to upgrade their products. The high value-added steel they now produce has gradually won the market.
In total, 20.21 million tonnes of iron ore were imported through Yingkou between January and May, 6.31 million tonnes more than last year, according to the harbor administration.
"I need to put out to sea three or four times to guide vessels this year while I used to do it only once before," Pan says, meaning his workload has tripled.
More vessels are from Africa and Southeast Asia, regions along the Belt and Road, according to Pan.
Pan says the harbor has become more than a loading venue, but a logistics hub.
"When container ships come to the harbor, many TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit) unloaded are transported to Europe by rail," Pan says.
Inaugurated in 2014, freight train services have been available between the harbor and nine European cities in Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia and Germany.
The harbor imported 6,800 TEUs last year via trains between China and Europe, up 13.4 percent.
Li Muyuan, of the China Communications and Transportation Association, says making use of the advantages of ports, northeast China will see new layout of industries such as logistics, finance and storage, which helps promote opening-up and boost revival of the old industrial base.