The world shipping market, which displayed unparalleled prosperity in 2003, will continue to benefit from continuous strong growth in China, the so-called "China factor," a Chinese shipping industry tycoon said Thursday.
China's growth has been the major driving force behind robust rallies in all of the major shipping market sectors, ranging from container liner shipping to dry bulk shipping to oil shipping, said Wei Jiafu, CEO and chairman of the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), when making a keynote speech at the World Shipping Summit (China) 2004.
"China may have provided one third of goods transported in containers, which is the most important mode of international transportation for manufactured products in the world," he said.
In 2003, the ports of the Chinese mainland handled 48 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs), plus another 20 million TEUs handled in Hong Kong, making China account for one fourth of the world total of 280 million TEUs, he said.
"Robust economic growth fuelled China's crude oil imports to increase 31 percent to a record level last year with imports of 91 millions tons," Wei said.
Statistics indicated that China's ocean fleet totalled 37 million deadweight, a jump from 12th in 1978 to fourth in the world.
Sponsored by Wei's company and the London-based Drewry Shipping Consultants, the two-day summit has attracted about 500 Chinese government officials, entrepreneurs from renowned international and domestic shipping companies, institutions and related businesses. They are exchanging views on the structural impact of the "China factor" both on global trade and the shipping market.
China's entry into the World Trade Organization, recent economic reform policies, vast human resources, ongoing urbanization and the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing are all making huge demands on the economy, which in turn brings the need for more imports and exports, Wei said.
Long Yongtu, the secretary-general of the Boao Forum for Asia, said the Chinese international shipping industry that used to spearhead the country's opening up drive is now the major force in opening China wider to the outside world.
"For some time to come, fast economic growth will increase China's independence on international resources," Long said.
Moreover, the development of Chinese shipping industry will also drive the development of domestic industries, he said.
"The development of shipping, especially the introduction of huge ships, will pave the way for raw material transport in large volumes and make it possible for China to become industrialized by taking advantage of the new division of labor in the world," he said.
"I am very keen about the import container trade volume increase in China," said Yasuhide Sakinaga, president of Kawaski Kisen Kaisha Ltd in Japan.
He predicted that the container ship operators will continue to seek efficient operations in alliances and in allocating appropriate size ships based on market demand.
To assure China's further expansion and economic development being most effective, he suggested that China should continue its ongoing deregulation policies and pursue further a competitive cost structure in accordance with global standards.
(China Daily July 16, 2004)