From Shanghai to Chancay: How a New Peruvian Port will Reshape Latin American Trade Routes


By Alberto Alonso Inope La Rosa

The Chancay Port is a new mega port under construction in Chancay, a small city located 70 kilometers away from Lima, the Peruvian capital. Once completed, it will be a multipurpose port that can receive up to one million twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs. The consortium responsible for its construction is constituted by the Chinese company Cosco Shipping Ports and the Peruvian company Volcan Companía Minera. Cosco has a 60% participation stake, while Volcan has a 40% participation stake. Although it is a fully private port, the public sector also plans to make use of the Chancay Port. The first phase of the project has an investment that ascends to 1.3 billion dollars. Later on, the port will be extended, and the final investment will reach a sum of 3.5 billion dollars at full capacity. Chancay is a key location for maritime trade, as it is located at the heart of Latin America. The location also has a unique water depth of over 18 meters, which allows for even the largest ships, carrying 18,000 TEU, to disembark from the port. 

How Will it Take Shape?

The infrastructure of Chancay Port will be composed of three main segments. The first segment consists of the operational zone of the port, which includes the docks where the ships would be stationed and the storage areas with automated cranes for the cargo containers. The infrastructure of the first segment also comprises the breakwaters, which are made of accropode blocks. The use of accropode blocks creates a bay of calm water, which is ideal for receiving the biggest container ships. The second segment is the underground viaduct tunnel of 1.8 kilometers, where heavy vehicles enter and exit the operational zone to transport loads. The viaduct has a total of three lanes and a conveyor belt for foodstuffs and grains. It is built underground to avoid disturbing the traffic within the small city of Chancay, which would otherwise be swarmed by heavy vehicles. Lastly, the third segment is the entrance complex, where all the logistics and administrative offices are located. This complex is around 2km away from the operating zone and connects to the Panamerican highway. 

Effect on Trade Routes

Usually, trade routes between China and Latin America have to stop by the port of Manzanillo in Mexico or Long Beach in the U.S., and then head down towards the Latin American Pacific coast. This conventional route takes approximately 45 days, whereas the Chancay Port would reduce this time down to only 10 days.

Additionally, the Chancay Port would serve as a connector between Brazil and the Asia-Pacific, which is critical considering that Brazil has exported over $100 billion to China in 2023. This connection still has challenges of its own, as the Bioceanic train between Peru and Brazil is still far from being a reality, meaning a barrier for ground transportation between the two countries still exists.

Social and Environmental Challenges

The megaproject is facing several social and environmental challenges during its formation. For instance, many houses were destroyed back in May 2023 due to the sinking of the earth above the underground viaduct, which has raised local opposition to the project. Nonetheless, the consortium has addressed this issue by reimbursing the affected families and, in some cases, relocating them to new living spaces. Additionally, some locals have pointed out that the port harms the natural landscape of Chancay, as parts of the mountain have been cut down for construction. The port also conflicts with the migration routes of local birds, which could harm Chancay’s fauna.

Futhermore, the Chancay Port suffers from a lack of complementary infrastructure, as the city only has one small police station and insufficient highways connecting it to the Peruvian highlands. According to Mario de las Casas, Cosco’s manager of public affairs, the infrastructure is 76% complete as of March 22, 2024. The inauguration of the Chancay Port is scheduled for late November 2024, which coincides with the APEC Forum of 2024. APEC 2024 is pivotal for Peru as the host country of the forum, and the Chancay Port may be the best presentation card for Peru to the rest of the world.

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