Giant ships sailed on the sea, connecting the economic and trade exchanges and personnel exchanges on the five continents. Data shows that the shipping industry is responsible for more than 80% of global trade transportation tasks and is crucial to global trade and economic growth.
Currently, our country is building a new development pattern with the domestic cycle as the main body and the domestic and international dual cycles reinforcing each other. After becoming the world’s largest ship-owning country, what new challenges will my country’s shipping industry face in the face of the complex and ever-changing international trade situation? ?
my country becomes the world’s largest ship-owning country
At the 2023 Tianjin International Shipping Industry Expo held recently, industry insiders discussed the development prospects of my country’s shipping industry.
The latest data from the Ministry of Transport shows that the fleet size owned by Chinese shipowners has reached 249.2 million gross tons, surpassing Greece in terms of gross tonnage and becoming the world’s largest shipowner country.
The shipowner refers to the legal holder of the Ship Ownership Certificate and the person who legally owns the sovereignty of the ship. The shipowner’s country is the country where the owner of the ship is located. Becoming the world’s largest ship-owning country means that our country has the largest fleet in the world.
The core and essence of why my country has become the world’s largest ship-owning country stems from economic development. In 2022, my country’s total foreign trade import and export value will be 42.07 trillion yuan, maintaining its status as the world’s largest trader of goods for 6 consecutive years.
Shipbuilding capabilities are also an important indicator of the strength of a ship-owning country. Data released by the China Shipbuilding Industry Association in August this year showed that in the first seven months, my country’s shipbuilding completion volume was 24.09 million deadweight tons, a year-on-year increase of 15.6%; the number of new orders received was 44.76 million deadweight tons, a year-on-year increase of 74%; the number of orders on hand was 127.9 million The deadweight tonnage increased by 23.4% year-on-year. The three major shipbuilding indicators all rank first in the world.
George Xirazakis, chairman of the Shipping Finance Association from Greece, a traditional shipowner country, said that many Greek shipowners build ships in China. “In the past ten years, half of Greek new ships were built in China.”
At the same time, the rapid rise of the shipping industry provides strong support for the development of my country’s shipping center cities. The “Xinhua Baltic International Shipping Center Development Index Report (2023)” released not long ago shows that among the top 10 comprehensive strength of global shipping center cities in 2023, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Ningbo Zhoushan and other Chinese shipping center cities are on the list. The “Report” believes that, led by the three major shipping centers of Singapore, London and Shanghai, the shipping centers in the Asia-Pacific region continue to rise.
Zhang Jingyou, head of Asia at the Baltic Exchange, believes that a study of 43 major shipping centers around the world found that the global trade pattern has shifted from the west to the east, “underscoring the gradual rise of China’s shipping industry.”
Luo Xunjie, Vice President of Tianjin Port (Group) Co., Ltd., pointed out that as the second largest economy in the world, about 95% of my country’s foreign trade transportation volume is carried out by sea transportation, which is important in ensuring the transportation of key materials such as imported grain, energy resources and international and domestic logistics supply chains. “my country has become the world’s largest ship-owning country and is an inevitable result of economic development.”
Technology, talent and other issues plague industry development
As early as 2019, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council issued the “Outline for Building a Powerful Transportation Country”, which proposed that China will basically build a powerful transportation country by 2035. “In the field of water transportation, the concrete manifestation is the construction of a shipping power.” said Zhang Baochen, executive vice chairman of the Chinese Institute of Navigation.
However, some people in the industry have reported that my country still faces some pain points and difficulties in the process of building a shipping power.
First of all, there is still a gap between shipping-related technology and the world’s leading level. The “China Intelligent Shipping Technology and Industrialization Development Forecast” previously released by the Chinese Institute of Navigation believes that by 2035, my country’s intelligent shipping technology and industrialization will reach the international leading level, and a fully intelligent new shipping industry will basically take shape. Coastal remote control driving, The proportion of autonomous ships exceeds 30%. This is both a prospect and a gap.
Zhang Baochen bluntly said that my country’s civil shipbuilding technology is still in the follow-up stage, and shipping technology relies heavily on shipbuilding industry technology.
In addition, multimodal transport is an important trend in the development of the shipping industry. In particular, sea-rail combined transport can promote domestic and international trade in a convenient, fast and environmentally friendly manner. However, the proportion of sea-rail combined transport in my country is low, which seriously affects the development of the shipping industry. Wu Youxi, deputy chairman of the Expert Committee of the China Warehousing and Distribution Association, compared a set of data: my country’s multimodal transport volume accounts for only 2.9% of the total freight volume in society, of which sea-rail combined transport volume accounts for only 2.5%. Only 1.3% of container throughput at Chinese seaports is transferred to the port via rail. In comparison, sea-rail combined transport volume in the United States accounts for 40% of the freight volume in the entire society, and in France this figure is 35%. “According to estimates, every 1 percentage point increase in the proportion of multimodal transport in the freight volume of the entire society can save about 100 billion yuan in logistics costs.”
The problem of talent shortage is also plaguing my country’s shipping industry. Seafarers are at the heart of shipping’s future. However, high-wage seafarers have always had difficulty recruiting workers due to the special working environment. “In the past few years, I conducted a survey on the boarding rates of graduates from several shipping colleges in China. The highest boarding rate was only over 40%, and the lowest was only over 10%.” Zhang Baochen said.
This situation is prevalent around the world. The “Seafarer Workforce Report” released by the Baltic International Shipping Association and the International Chamber of Shipping in recent years shows that the global shipping market has a shortage of 130,000 to 150,000 seafarers, and senior seafarers are particularly tight.
Green, low-carbon intelligence has become the development trend of the shipping industry
Currently, the shipping industry is at a critical crossroads and urgently needs transformation to remain resilient. Some people in the industry believe that green, low-carbon, and smart have become the consensus for the development of the shipping industry and are also important magic weapons to solve current challenges.
Many experts pointed out that green intelligence is an inevitable trend for the high-quality development of shipping. It is necessary to promote the application of new energy and clean energy such as hydrogen energy, LNG, and photovoltaics in the shipping field, and promote the integration of new technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence, and blockchain with shipping. Deeply integrate the industry, develop smart ports, smart waterways, smart ships, and smart shipping, and enhance the digitalization level of all factors and the entire chain of the shipping industry. “Intelligent shipping technology cannot be bought or bought. On the way to becoming a shipping power, we must have the ability to innovate independently,” Zhang Baochen said.
In response to the low proportion of sea-rail combined transport in my country’s shipping industry, Wu Youxi called for further promoting the “one-way system” for multimodal transport and clearing up the conversion congestion between sea transport and other modes of transport.
In addition, some people in the industry call for companies to truly regard seafarers as their first resources and core competitiveness, provide seafarers with adequate professional security, and allow seafarers to enjoy a better life in the new era. At the same time, promote the deep integration of artificial intelligence and shipping elements to reshape the shipping industry, thereby improving system efficiency and safety, and improving the working conditions of practitioners.