Barcelona Calling: China Shipping
Can you give us a brief overview of the company and your activities at a national and international level?
China Shipping Group was created in 1997 when several Chinese companies in the shipping industry came together. It currently ranks number 6 in the shipping world ranking so we have come a long way since then.
China Shipping Spain Agency is our Spanish agent in the China Shipping Group. The company was started in 1999 through a joint venture between China Shipping Group and the Perez y Cía Logistic Group. We represent the interests of the China Shipping Group in Spain and we are also responsible for the marketing of its subsidiary China Shipping Container Line, which deals with containers.
Why did China Shipping Line choose Barcelona as its headquarters here in Spain?
There are other ports with which we have an excellent relationship, but Barcelona has always been and is still a reference point for established foreign companies. There are many reasons why Barcelona is an ideal candidate. Mainly, the facilities connecting the airport with all major cities and airports in Europe and America, but also the port, its presence and accessibility …
Furthermore, the first China Shipping boats began operations in Barcelona so the shareholders decided to establish their central offices here. We now have 6 offices in Spain, in Madrid and Spain´s other principal ports Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, Seville and Vigo.
How has the company grown and evolved since it was established in Barcelona?
We are very happy because the past 10 years has seen a growth in global trade traffic. China Shipping has been there, responding, making every effort to meet the demands of our customers. Now, because of the shrinking world market and due to decrease in demand, there is a decrease in business. Still, we remain leaders in the Mediterranean both in cargo and transhipment.
Can you give us an idea of the size of the company in terms of annual shipping volumes?
In 2008, in Spain we handled over 120,000 TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units which measures are 20 feet long and 30 metres cubed), up 2% on the previous year. This figure accounts for the 2300 TEUs that we move per week in Spanish Ports and inland cities such as Madrid, Zaragoza and Murcia etc where we also operate.
How has trade increased between China and Spain over the last decade?
In the year 2000, Barcelona imported 63,000 TEUs from China which by 2003, had increased to 98,000. By 2006, there were 98,000 and by 2008 this figure had grown to 227,000. Exports have also been increasing too but they are by no means the same quantity. In the year 2000, Barcelona exported 15,000 TEUs and last year there were more than 47,000 TEUs exported to China. We have achieved an annual growth of 20% in the last 7-8 years but due to the crisis, this year we will see a significant decline.
What are you predictions then for this year?
This year the container trade will decline. It is estimated that there will be an 8-9% drop in demand, but when it comes to how the market downturn will affect different countries, we see the positioning of each one in terms of trade with China because China is the primary point of origin in the path of containers.
Here in Spain, the slowdown in construction has affected a very large number of companies and consequently has led to an impressive decrease in demand and therefore a decrease in container traffic.
Unfortunately, this crisis is upon us and there is a knock-on drop in demand. It comes at a time when we were growing and there had been significant investment in the port to allow for this growth, but despite this, we work to ensure that the Port of Barcelona will continue growing and we hope that soon we can overcome the crisis and tackle new challenges.