Breakbulk China roll-on, roll-off panel

Ro-ro Lines Diversify in China


By Eric Johnson

China is by far the world’s largest auto market, but that vastness hasn’t stopped global roll-on, roll-off carriers that transport the nation’s car imports and exports from pursuing cargo diversification.

Indeed, according to experts participating in a Breakbulk China 2017 panel discussion Thursday, opening ro-ro ship holds to a wider variety of cargo – from buses to construction equipment – has been a key to success in the huge China market.

Bob Tang, country sales manager for Höegh Autoliners Ltd. China, said his company has added railcars, wind blades and construction equipment to its China service mix in the face of fluctuating auto demand.

Rider Liu, commercial director and Beijing office head for Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, said Chinese car exports fell after peaking at about 1 million cars in 2012-13. Although exports could rise again since some brands such as Volvo are being shipped to the U.S., he said, WWL is accepting a variety of cargo including buses.

Carriers have benefited from the rapid development of ro-ro terminals that have popped up over the past 15 years along China’s coast. China has 14 terminals licensed to handle cars in ports such as Shanghai and Ningbo.

China’s ro-ro terminals are still expanding and improving, said Xi Jialin, marketing director at the Shanghai Haitong International Automotive Terminal. By 2030, he said, ports accommodating ro-ro ships nationwide will have the capacity to process about 3 million cars annually.

Tang and Liu predicted the China market will strengthen in coming years.

In Tang’s view, the market has been improving since the second half of last year. “Our loads were almost full on the major routes” during those months, he said. “We think we’ve already been through the worst.”

Liu said, “We believe that in the next few years, the ro-ro business may be better, with bigger fleets and bigger cargo volumes. And in next 10 years, the ro-ro market in China will contribute greatly to the global market as car exports will continue increasing.”

Photo: Xi Jailin, of Shanghai Haitong International Automotive Terminal, answers a question, while (from left) moderator Christine Huang of Caterpillar, Rider Liu of Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, Bob Tang of Höegh Autoliners Ltd. – China, and Alex Huang of China Electric Power Oversized Equipment Transportation, listen.

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