Since the 1-million-TEU barrier was smashed through in 2000, the throughput of containers for domestic trade has entered into a period of exponential growth: it exceeded 10 million TEU in 2005, 30 million TEU in 2010 and 40 million TEU in 2011, and is expected to hit 50 million TEU in 2012. Container throughput as a percentage of China’s total has also been rising year after year from 8.1% (2.21 million TEU) in 2001 to 28.7% (40.69 million TEU).
Specialization of Container Ports
As a growing number of ports are engaged in container shipping for domestic trade, such constraints are being eliminated as chaotic document management, poor connection of port and shipping services, overweight containers, and limited application of e-information technology. Data show that as many as 76 ports are providing container shipping services for domestic trade, including Qingdao Port, Shanghai Port, Ningbo Port and other large-sized port enterprises. By drawing on the proven experience in container shipping for foreign trade in terms of port construction, supply management, e-seals, service platform, cooperation with liners and team building, these enterprises have contributed greatly to the specialization of container shipping for domestic trade.
Expansion of Shipping Network
Through years of development, a τ-shaped waterway container shipping network has been brought into being, dotted by Dalian Port, Tianjin Port and Qingdao Port in Circum-Bohai Sea Region, Guangzhou Port, Shenzhen Port and Quanzhou Port in South China, as well as other ports in Yangtze River Basin and Pearl River Basin, with Shanghai Port as the hub. It is extending so rapidly that the container shipping network for domestic trade has taken shape in port clusters in Circum-Bohai Sea Region, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta.
Substantial Growth in Domestic Trade Cargo
Waterway container shipping has such unparalleled advantages over other modes of transport as a large capacity, low freight rates and energy efficiency. At present, containers for domestic trade can find cargo from the hinterland as well as from all the coastal ports, echoing the extension of waterway shipping network from the coastal areas to inland rivers. The sustained supply development and a wider choice of containerizable cargo for domestic trade have gradually brought into shape a supply structure with building materials, steels, coal, grains, paper pulp and chemicals as the mainstay, and with automobiles, day-to-day goods, household appliances, food & beverage, sugar and rubber as the subsidiary. Besides, with the application of reefer containers, special containers and other new technology, new types of containerizable cargo are constantly developed.
The following characteristics can be seen in the market: 1. The supply structure has recorded the transition from common cargo to light bulky freight, high-value shipment or even perilous goods, which places new requirements on safety and drives the emergence of special containers; 2. The preliminary network for waterway, railway and road transport has taken shape; 3. There is a strong tendency towards large-sized, specialized and technology-based ports so as to meet various transport needs; 4. Multi-modal transport is all the rage, and rail-sea/river transport has been put into practice.