Maersk Line has become the first foreign carrier to operate a boxship in Chinese coastal trade under a new exception to national cabotage rules.
At Shanghai Yangshan Port, the huge island extension of the world’s largest container seaport, the boxship Merete Maersk loaded 27 containers that had just arrived from Vancouver, Canada. She is to deliver them directly to Tianjin, China, a coastal trip of around 600 nautical miles.
Until recently, the trip would not have been possible. In China, cargo shipments between two Chinese ports have always been covered by cabotage rules, and foreign carriers have been strictly prohibited from engaging in this trade – even for cargo of international origin.
“Transshipment in Shanghai allows us to improve services through optimized networks and could also solve some of the factors causing bottlenecks in Chinese supply chains,” said Maersk CEO Soren. Skou, in a press release. “We appreciate this initiative from the Chinese authorities. It is an important step towards optimizing relay regulation, and we hope it will serve as inspiration in other geographies where restrictions on international relays still exist. .”
In 2019, China’s State Council proposed a package of measures to boost trade through Shanghai. One of the changes is a new exclusion that allows qualified foreign carriers to pick up international cargo at Shanghai Yangshan and “relay” it to ports in northern China, including Dalian, Tianjin and Qingdao. The lawsuit was confirmed in November 2021 and will last until 2024.
“At a time of significant tension in global supply chains, this is a very welcome step that could alleviate some of the bottlenecks faced by exporters,” said Joerg Wuttke, President of the Chamber of European trade in China. “This appears to be a significant step towards opening up the maritime industry in China to foreign participation and creating more reciprocal market access conditions between Chinese carriers in the EU and EU carriers in China.”