The Port of Dalian is located at the southern end of the Liaodong Peninsula on the Yellow Sea in southern Liaoning Province in northeastern China. About 470 kilometers southeast of Beijing and 80 nautical miles north-northeast, across the Yellow Sea, from the Port of Yantai, the Port of Dalian has an ice-free natural deep-water harbor. It occupies an important strategic position at the entrance to the Gulf of Chihli, commanding maritime access to the Port Tianjin. In 2002, almost 2.2 million people lived in the Port of Dalian.
A busy industrial center, the Port of Dalian is the biggest shipping center in China, and it supports a large fishing fleet. In addition to its port, Dalian is an important rail terminus with direct access to the nation's highway network and a major international airport with regular flights to Japan and Korea. The Port of Dalian is home to ship builders and locomotive manufacturers, and it has a thriving manufacturing sector that produces machines, chemicals, electronics, textiles, and petroleum products. High technology, finance, and services are also growing in importance to the local economy.
In the 2nd Century BC, Lushun (today's Port of Dalian) was an important entry port for southern Manchuria. Settled by Chinese colonists of the Han Dynasty in the late 2nd Century BC, the fortified Port of Dalian was also important for military campaigns by the Tang Dynasty in the 7th Century AD and for the Ming Dynasty in the 15th and 16th Centuries.
The Manchus captured the Port of Dalian in 1633, and it was the headquarters for coastal defense under the Manchu Qing Dynasty from 1644 until the early 20th Century. In the late 19th Century, it was selected as the base for China's first modern navy and re-fortified.
During the Sino-Japanese War in the mid-1890s, the Port of Dalian was captured by the Japanese and leased to Japan under the Treaty of Shimonoseki. However, Western powers intervened, and the Port of Dalian was returned to China. Russia needed an ice-free Pacific port, and in 1897, they occupied the Liaodong Peninsula after Germany took the southern side of Shandong Peninsula.
In 1898, Russia obtained a lease for the Liaodong Peninsula and permission to build a railroad to connect with the Chinese Eastern Railway and the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The Russians focused on strengthening the naval base as the headquarters for their Pacific fleet at Lushun (known in the West as Port Arthur).
In 1899, Russia set up the free Port Arthur (later the Port of Dalian) with capacity to handle 5.2 million tons of cargo per year. They dredged the harbor and built wharves, piers, and breakwaters and laid out a large city in the Western style. In 1902, the Port Authority was established under the mayor. By 1903, the Port of Dalian contained three terminals and warehouses.
The Port of Dalian was an important target of the Japanese during the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War. The Japanese army occupied the Port of Dalian in 1904, forcing the Russians to withdraw. The 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth formally transferred the Liaodong Peninsula to Japan. It became Japan's military and administrative headquarters for the region, and the Japanese strengthened the naval base, using it for operations in Manchuria and northern China.
The Japanese completed the development of the city and port that the Russians had begun. They renamed the port Dairen and developed a modern city with an impressive modern port. It was soon the second busiest port in China with trade volume exceeded only by Shanghai. In 1912, the volume of Port of Dalian's foreign trade made it the biggest trading port in China's northeast.
The Japanese made Darien an important industrial center with a busy chemical industry and a growing cotton-textile production industry. Already a headquarters for the South Manchurian Railway, the Japanese added large railway workshops that supplied locomotives, rolling stock, and equipment for rail lines throughout the region and in Korea.
During the 1930s, the completion of the Dairen Machinery Company in the Port of Dalian established the machine-building industry, and the ship-building industry grew. In 1934, cargo volumes moving through the Port of Dalian reached ten million tons, including 7.7 million tons of exports. In 1939, the Japanese completed the Port of Dalian's Terminal Four. By 1941, the Port of Dalian was producing eight-thousand ton ocean-going vessels.
The 1945 Yalta Conference assumed that the Port of Dalian and the Liaodong territory would be returned to Russia after World War II. That year, China and the Soviet Union agreed to share the Port of Dalian for 30 years with the Soviet Union responsible for defending the port. Soviet occupation of the Liaodong Peninsula resulted in less damage to the Port of Dalian than to many other cities in Manchuria. In 1954, stevedores from the Port of Dalian attended China's National People's Congress.
In 1972, the first container ships arrived at the Port of Dalian, establishing Mainland China's first ocean-going container routes. In 1973, cargo volumes reached 21.5 million tons. Foreign trade in the Port of Dalian exceeded domestic trade for the first time in 1975. In 1976, China's first 100 thousand ton deep-water wharf was opened in the Port of Dalian. The old Port of Dalian underwent a complete renovation in 1978. In 1981, the several communities were merged, and the city of Dalian became the Zhongshan District.
Dalian Port Corporation was created in 1982, and the Port of Dalian won the coveted Hong Kong Annual National Quality Management Award in 1984. That year, the Port of Dalian hit a new record volume of 40 million tons of cargo. Also in 1984, the Port of Dalian was made one of China's few open cities in 1984, inviting foreign investment and creating further development.
In 1985, the Port of Dalian established friendship relations with the Port of Hong Kong, the Port of Kitakyushu in Japan, the Port of Houston in the United States, and the Port of Vancouver in Canada. The Port of Dalian's Grocery Terminal, with capacity for 960 thousand tons of cargo, was completed. The Port of Dalian won the National Business Management Excellence Award in 1989. The same year, open access container liner routes were established with the United States and Canada. Cargo throughput topped 50 million tons in 1989.
In 1992, the Port of Dalian opened new passenger and roll-on/roll-off berths, bringing passenger capacity to 1.25 million and capacity for vehicles to 100 thousand. By 1994, the Port of Dalian was handling cargo volumes over 60 million tons. The last Russian forced left the Port of Dalian in 1995, and the Chinese immediately made it an important naval base.
The 1990s brought new development, new goals, and new recognition to the Port of Dalian. In 1996, the Assembly established the goal of making the Port of Dalian a multi-purpose, all-round modern international port and provided the labor and materials needed to implement the program. Construction began for the "343 initiative."
By 1997, the Port of Dalian's cargo throughput reached over 70 million tons. In 1999, the Port of Dalian's Container Terminal Company Limited received the award in Hong Kong, recognizing it as Asia's best container terminal operators. Later that year, China's shipping magazine recognized the container port's outstanding operating efficiency, and the Port of Dalian was recognized by "Maritime Asia" for its outstanding container terminals. Cargo throughput in the Port of Dalian exceeded 85 million tons in 1999.
In 2000, the Port of Dalian's workers were recognized as "National Model Workers," and the Port of Dalian cargo throughput topped 90 million tons. Ten new berths were constructed, including five container berths with annual capacity for 1.5 million TEUs of containerized cargo, four bulk berths with annual capacity for 4.9 million tons of cargo, and a grain berth with annual capacity for 4.5 million tons. In 2006, China's National Tourism Administration named the Port of Dalian a "national industrial tourism demonstration site."