China to dominate global shipping by 2030, Shanghai report finds

China to dominate global shipping by 2030, Shanghai report finds

HONG KONG — Container throughput in China will reach 505 million 20-foot-equivalent units by 2030, three super container hub ports will be formed in Shanghai, Qingdao and Hong Kong, and Chinese firms will become global container terminal operators.

In a fascinating look at the maritime role China will play in the future, these are some of the findings of the just-released China Shipping Development Outlook 2030 by the Shanghai International Shipping Institute, a state-owned maritime research provider and consultancy.

The extensive report covers all areas of the country’s maritime industry and calls on the Chinese government to be “clear-minded” about what needs to be done, warning that industries against the general trend may eventually be eliminated.

“Enterprises will be faced with a more open shipping market, foreign capital will inevitably enter all areas of the shipping industry, and the monopoly-based interests enjoyed by some shipping and port sectors today will be affected by marketization,” the report noted.

“Chinese enterprises sometimes hope the government would keep their foreign counterparts outside, but the government will no longer interfere in areas where resource allocation should be market-based.”

But it was in the port statistics where the sheer scale of China’s growth could be seen. By 2030, throughput at mainland ports will reach 505 million TEUs, growing at an average annual rate of 6 percent, driven by international cargo and the rapid growth of coastal and inland river shipping.

Three or four super container hub ports will be formed, including Shanghai, Qingdao and Hong Kong, and more than 95 percent of the coastal ports will integrate their resources with other ports in the cluster through capital injection and strategic cooperation.

The report listed the top 10 ports in 2030 and their annual volumes: Shanghai (52.68 million TEUs), Qingdao (43.15 million), Ningbo-Zhoushan (37.27 million), Tianjin (32.3 million), Shenzhen (30.24 million), Guangzhou (30.07 million), Dalian (27.86 million), Suzhou (23.11 million), Lianyungang (16.67 million) and Xiamen (13.24 million).

The Yangtze River is already an important waterway, and it will continue to play a key role in inland shipping as industries develop around port cities along the river. Demand along the Yangtze is predicted to reach 3.8 billion tons in 2030, making the Yangtze River the main distribution channel in the eastern, central and western regions. Four hub ports will be formed along the river — Chongqing, Wuhan, Nanjing and Suzhou.

The scenario given in the report was that after long years of development, the central and western regions of China become more capable of undertaking the industries from the eastern region and overseas, and a large number of industries begin to move from the Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta and Fujian, step-by-step.

“The Yangtze River golden waterway is the main channel that carries the movement of industries from the eastern coast, and cities along the Yangtze River are well-positioned to undertake those industries. Port cities along the river will be further opened up in the future, which will boost shipping development along the Yangtze River,” the report said.

The report found that China’s import and export of container cargo had increased at an average annual rate of 12.13 percent in the past 10 years and was expected to pass 200 million TEUs in 2030. But in 2030, the containerised imports and exports would slow to an average growth rate of 4-5 percent a year. Its international container trade will take a larger global market share, imports and exports would be more balanced, imports would increase faster than exports, and products with higher values would comprise a larger proportion of exports.

A report on the China of the future would not be complete without a mention of the country’s One Belt, One Road strategy. In 2013, the U.S. and Europe were the main partners in China’s container transportation market with their cargo volume taking up more than two-thirds, but that would change by 2030. With the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road, the report noted that China would see faster trade increases with West Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa and South America, while its container trade with the U.S. and Europe would remain stable or even shrink.

China's shipping industry is dominated by giant state-owned companies, and the Shanghai institute pondered whether as a highly competitive sector, the shipping market was more suitable for private enterprises that would be able to play a more important role as China evolved into a greater shipping power.

“Looking toward 2030, we should realize that the current shipping industry is on the eve of a major reform. The continuous recession in the shipping industry that we’ve felt is the prelude to this upcoming industrial reform. Innovative enterprises that can adapt to the changes will embrace growth by blazing out a new path, whereas enterprises that stick in a rut may not see the day of recovery,” the report stated.

Contact Greg Knowler at greg.knowler@ihs.com and follow him on Twitter: @greg_knowler.