China’s ports have handled just under 4.3 billion tons of cargo between January to April, according to new data from the Ministry of Transport. Of that huge volume, just under 1.38 billion tons, about 32 percent, is classified by the Ministry as “foreign” cargo. Unfortunately, the Ministry doesn’t specify the nature of the “foreign” cargo. A metric ton is 2,206.4 U.S. pounds.
In the same timeframe China handled just under 82.3 million twenty foot equivalent unit shipping containers. Unfortunately, the Ministry does not state which boxes were Chinese and were foreign.
Total and “foreign” cargoes
Nationally, China’s year-to-date total cargo volumes increased 6.6 percent compared with January to April 2018. Its “foreign” cargo volumes rose 2.6 percent on the same basis. Box volumes also increased on a year-on-year basis by 5.7 percent.
The value of China’s total imports and exports reached US$1,027.2 billion in the first quarter of 2019, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Export values stood at US$551.76 billion, an increase of 1.4 percent compared to the same period last year. Import values stood at US$475.45 billion, which represents a fall of about 4.8 percent. The trade surplus for the quarter was about US$76.31 billion, the Ministry of Commerce said.
What does the middle class want?
Helen Sawczak is the National CEO of the Australia China Business Council, an organization set up in 1973 to promote bilateral Australia-Chinese trade. The Council will often visit China as part of its mission. Sawczak provided some insight into what’s driving the Chinese economy.
“China’s economy has shifted from an investment basis to a consumption basis. There’s also a rise of the affluent middle classes. And what do the affluent middle classes want? Lots of clean, green, products. Logistics is booming in China. Ecommerce is booming. Ecommerce is growing exponentially due to the rise of the middle classes. Over 610 million Chinese people made a purchase online last year.
“There is a massive appetite in China for imports from all over the world, so, of course port traffic will go up. Looking forward, everyone is saying China will have about six percent growth. While that’s not the double-figures from ten or fifteen years ago, it’s on a very large base. It’s the envy of many developed nations,” she tells FreightWaves.
Top three by total cargo volume
The top three ports in China by total cargo volume in the year to the end of April are Ningbo-Zhoushan with 348 million tons; Shanghai which handled 220 million tons; and Guangzhou which handled 194 million tons. Volumes at the combined port complex of Ningbo-Zhoushan are up 1.2 percent year-on-year; Shanghai is up by 1.3 percent; and Guangzhou by one percent.
But the list of the top three ports handling “foreign” goods is a little different. The top port by volume of foreign goods is Ningbo-Zhoushan, which handled 165 million tons of foreign goods in the four months to the end of April. That accounts for 47 percent of Ningbo-Zhoushan’s total cargo volumes in the year-to-date. Qingdao is in second place with 136 million tons of foreign goods (74 percent of its total). That’s followed by Shanghai (131 million tons, 60 percent).
And for the month of April…
Looking at the volumes handled by China in the month of April, Ningbo-Zhoushan last month handled the largest amount of cargo at 92.8 million tons. It also handled, at 37.54 million tons, the most foreign cargo in April.
Shanghai was in second place last month with 56.56 million tons of cargo handled. About 33.58 million tons of that cargo was foreign goods. Guangzhou took third place with a total cargo volume of 51.77 million tons handled in April. But it was the port at Qingdao that took the third spot for “foreign” cargo with 33.01 million tons handled last month.
April saw China’s box ports in total handle 21.94 million TEU. The ports that handled the most box traffic last month were Shanghai (3.6 million TEU), Ningbo-Zhoushan (2.25 million TEU), Shenzhen (2.08 million TEU), Guangzhou (1.87 million TEU) and Qingdao (1.76 million TEU).
Together, those five ports accounted for 59 percent of all of the box traffic through China’s seaports (as opposed to inland river ports) in the month of April.