Silk Road Maritime drives Fujian Province to contribute to BRI’s high-quality growth: entrepreneur
The Silk Road Maritime (SRM), China’s first global shipping logistics services brand and platform, has operated 5,277 trips and a total container throughput of 5 million TEUs by the end of April.
Based on the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road positioning and its advantages, the SRM was established by East China’s Fujian Province in December 2018, as an active response to the province’s efforts to participate in building the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
As of April, the SRM has 72 named shipping routes covering 58 ports in 27 countries in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia, Africa and Europe, of which 33 ports are in 19 countries that are participating in jointly building the BRI.
What kind of progress has the SRM made since its establishment? What role does it play in advancing the high-quality development of the BRI? The Belt and Road Portal (BRP) spoke with Chen Zhiping (Chen), general manager of Fujian Provincial Port Group Co (FJPG) and president of Fujian Silk Road Maritime Maganement Co. He said that thanks to the growing business volume over recent years, the SRM has provided opportunities for global enterprises to participate in the construction of the BRI, and has also become an engine for Fujian’s development.
BRP: Can you outline the progress that the SRM has made since its establishment in 2018?
Chen: More than 60 logistics enterprises of ports and airlines showed support for the SRM when it was set up, and the number exceeds 200 today. The popularity and influence of the SRM has continued to grow with some new members from home and abroad joining recently, such as Hyundai Merchant Marine, SITC International Holdings Co and Port of Gdansk and Tianjin Port (Group) Co.
In recent years, many efforts have been made to formulate and promote industry standards in a bid to improve the services of the SRM. This could be seen in September 2020 when two documents – Research on the Development Policy and Service Standards of SRM and SRM Port Service Standard – were launched to explore the establishment of a high-standard integrated logistics service standard system.
BRP: What role is the SRM playing in making Fujian Province a core area of the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road?
Chen: The progress of the SRM will drive the province to seek some policy breakthrough to promote the Xiamen Special Economic Zone to shift from a pilot free trade zone to a free trade port, which could further improve Fujian’s opening-up level. Developing the SRM will help Fujian cooperate with countries and regions along the routes in sectors including shipping, trade and technological innovation.
As the closest mainland province to Taiwan, Fujian’s efforts to develop the sea transport industry will promote economic and trade exchanges with Taiwan. It will also help strengthen connectivity in sectors such as infrastructure, energy and resources between Fujian and Taiwan.
SRM aims to forge a logistics network that can cover countries and regions along the BRI routes. Since June 2019, we have strengthened efforts to release two service standards regarding port transit and sea-rail combined transport ports, with the aim of attracting more containers into and out of ports in Fujian and more international trade cargo for transit in Xiamen Port.
In coming years, after products from countries in Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea are shipped to Xiamen through the SRM, they will be transported via China-Europe freight trains to countries and regions in Central Asia and Europe. This kind of sea-rail combined transportation method has become a normal operation.
BRP: How did the SRM perform amid the COVID-19 pandemic last year?
Chen: The shipping industry faced many challenges last year as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted port operations, changed global shipping routes, and hindered port logistics, which affected the stability of supply chains.
To confront the impact brought about by the pandemic, the SRM launched six pilot express routes in August 2020. Data showed that the operating efficiency of the express routes has increased by 5 percent, the time spent by ships in ports has been cut by 10 percent and the efficiency of cargo inspection has risen by 20 percent.
In March 2020, the Xiamen Songyu container terminal ushered in the container ships with the largest loading capacity in the world, indicating the resumption of work and production of ports in the province amid the pandemic.
Such efforts provide a strong guarantee for the timely export of goods in this special period and help maintain stable growth of supply chains. In June last year, the container throughput of Xiamen Port reached 1.005 million TEUs, the first time that Xiamen Port broke through the 1 million TEU threshold in a single month. After that, the container throughput exceeded 1 million TEUs for seven consecutive months.
BRP: What are the future development plans for the SRM?
Chen: Efforts will be made in three aspects, including further enhancing the SRM brand, improving and promoting the SRM service standard system and speeding up the construction of an industry information platform.
We will try to attract more international-level enterprises and associations in the sector to join the SRM alliance and strive to upgrade the alliance to a national-level social organization.
Also, in a bid to forge an information platform, more efforts are expected to bring about the linking of data from ports along the SRM routes. It is also important for the platform to trace the origin of products and realize visualization during the entire shipping process.