Focus grows on intra-Asia boxship trade
“Intra-Asia trade will be the focal point of container shipping industry in the future,” said Bronson Hsieh, chairman of Evergreen Marine Corp. (Taiwan) and vice group chairman of Evergreen Group.
Speaking at the Transpacific Maritime Asia conference Monday, Hsieh said “intra-Asia market will continue to benefit from further liberalization of regional trade and the recovery of the global economy. With such growth potential, we believe the intra-Asia trade will continue to grow and its market size will be able to keep pace with the transpacific and the Far East/Europe trade.”
Hsieh said that intra-Asia cargo volumes decreased by just 2.6 percent in 2009 and have increased 16.9 percent in the first half of this year, in both periods outperforming trade from Asia to the U.S. and Europe. He attributed this to expansion of China’s domestic market and regional free trade development.
While large ships in intercontinental services move cargo between Asian ports, Hsieh noted the sizes of ships devoted to intra-Asia trade are growing. While vessels in intra-Asia services had been limited to about 3,000 TEUs due to the capacity of ports and terminals in Southeast Asia, today “Panamax vessels are being deployed to six intra-Asia loops. With the investment in expansion of terminals in ASEAN countries, the fleet size of ships will continue to increase,” he said.
Inland service is improving in Asia, he added, pointing to an agreement by China and six ASEAN countries on construction of the Nanning-Singapore Economic Corridor that will run through major cities in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore by rail and road. He said this would boost cargo volumes between China and ASEAN countries and substantially reduce transport time and cost.
A second mega-project is the Mekong River rail system approved by ministers from China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The project, expected to be completed between 2020 and 2025, is designed to facilitate cross-border transport and develop closer economic links.