China’s Maritime Growth and Global Sustainability

In the early part of the 21st Century, the global community has gained enormous advantages from the expansion of China’s trade and maritime activities. Numerous countries have greatly benefited from China’s much closer integration into the world economy and maritime scene. Yet the huge demand for foreign resources, to assist China in maintaining its robust economic growth, has focused attention upon sustainability aspects, specifically the challenges and opportunities.

Many questions arise in a sustainability context. How are China’s shipping and trade evolving, and what is the impact? What are the social and human implications for China as a major supplier of maritime labour to the world market? How are environmental issues being handled in China, for instance those involving marine protected areas, ship recycling and maritime pollution? These elements have global as well as national impacts and ramifications.

A forthcoming Greenwich Maritime Institute (University of Greenwich) conference arranged by the GMI’s China Maritime Centre, on 10th September 2013 within the London International Shipping Week, will examine a wide range of topics. The conference is entitled ‘China’s Growth as a Maritime Power: Challenges and Opportunities for Global Sustainability’. Speakers from industry and academia have been invited to present their ideas. A prominent feature is new knowledge gained from cutting-edge academic research projects on China’s maritime issues, making the conference particularly informative. Discussion and debate will follow.

The Greenwich conference framework for China topics is maritime business and economics, social and human issues, and environmental aspects. The title echoes the theme adopted by the International Maritime Organization for World Maritime Day 2013. A theme of ‘Sustainable Development: IMO’s contribution beyond Rio+20’ was adopted for that occasion. In his speech to launch the theme, the IMO secretary-general clarified a crucial point. What does sustainable development actually mean? Reference was made to an earlier UN report where a clear definition was given: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

This event at Greenwich takes place, arguably, at a significant juncture. The Chinese economy appears to have reached a transitional period, between near or actual double-digit GDP growth rates until relatively recently, and a ‘more sustainable’ era of rather less rapid but still vigorous expansion. Maritime activities and their sustainability will be affected by the changing pace.

China’s role as a major player and, in some maritime activities, the largest and dominant player inevitably places its global involvement and implications under a spotlight. A few achievements are particularly noteworthy. China has become the leading influence shaping world seaborne trade and is by far the largest importer of dry bulk commodities. The merchant ship fleet controlled by Chinese companies is now one of the biggest. As well as being the largest shipbuilding country (by deadweight volume and contract value), China is a major ship recycler. It is also a prominent supplier of maritime labour to the global market. Much or most of these gains have been made within the past decade, a relatively short period for such a performance. The combined impact is hard to exaggerate.

As a result of this large-scale activity, steps which China is taking to tackle sustainability issues are viewed with great interest by the international community. On many maritime and related issues, it is noticeable that significant advances to correct any deficiencies are being made, and signs of likely further progress over the years ahead are visible.

Richard Scott
GMI visiting lecturer and MD, Bulk Shipping Analysis

Conference Programme – China’s Growth as a Maritime Power: Global Sustainability


We are now accepting bookings for this conference which will be hosted by the China Maritime Centre, Greenwich Maritime Institute and held at the University of Greenwich on Tuesday 10th September 2013.

Topics will include the following maritime dimensions:

China’s Ocean Shipping
Governing Marine Protected Areas
Maritime Labour Convention
China’s Global Seaborne Trade
Seafarer Fatigue
Green Ship Recycling

Please click here for a copy of the full draft programme.Programme Draft

Delegate fees include a delegate pack, attendance at all presentations, lunch and refreshments throughout the day plus a post-conference drinks reception.

To make an online booking please visit the following website:

China Maritime Centre – A Successful One-Day Course

The China Maritime Centre (GMI) ran a successful one-day short course ‘A Leading Global Player: Maritime Business Activities in China’, 10th June 2013. The short course was organised against the background that over the past decade China has become the leading influence shaping global seaborne trade, as result of a remarkable upsurge in trade volumes. This short course was led by the Director of China Maritime Centre Dr Minghua Zhao, international shipping analyst Richard Scott and researcher Yifan Liao who specialises in ship recycling. The course investigated how and why China has become such a prominent part of the global maritime scene within a relatively short period since the early 2000s and also provided with some clues about future trends.

Three specific areas of growth within the maritime industry in China were discussed at the course: China’s maritime trade in a global context, the rapidly growing China-owned merchant ship fleets and ports and a new era for shipbuilding and ship recycling in China.

This course has attracted a good number of participants from a range of sectors of the maritime community, including delegates, for example, from shipping companies, maritime law firms, maritime media and research institutions, maritime museums, seafarers welfare organisations and others.

Short Course Image, June 2013

The next event of the China Maritime Centre will take place on 10th September 2013 and is a one-day conference, ‘China’s Growth as an International Power: Challenges and Opportunities for Global Sustainability’. More details can be found on our booking website:


China’s sparkling maritime business achievements

The China maritime business story over the past ten years has been dazzling. By the end of 2012 Chinese shipowners’ share of the world’s entire merchant ship fleet had risen to 10 percent. This Chinese fleet is now more than three times its size one decade earlier. Last year shipbuilders in China produced 43 percent of the world’s newbuilding ship deliveries (based on deadweight tonnage), up from a relatively small six percent share at the start of the 2000s. Equally impressively, importers in China last year received an enormous volume of cargo by sea, comprising almost one-fifth of all world seaborne trade, compared with a six percent proportion a decade earlier.

An opportunity is approaching to examine this amazing narrative and its causes in more detail. At Greenwich Maritime Institute on 10th June, a one-day short course entitled ‘A Leading Global Player: Maritime Business Activities in China’ will look closely at the trends and assess the current position. Any clues to how events will unfold in the period ahead also will be discussed.

What has made these achievements so remarkable is not only the sheer magnitude, but also the speed at which expansion occurred. During a period of a little over ten years, China has transformed the global maritime business scene, overtaking other major players to become the most prominent and influential participant in several key activities. A dizzying velocity of sustained growth year after year became a defining feature, a pattern which was not widely foreseen. Few people would believe a forecaster predicting advances of that intensity or longevity.

Chinese shipowners, shipbuilders, ship recyclers, and importers and exporters of commodities and products carried by sea have become the principal, immediate focus of attention in international shipping markets. The first question asked by market operators, brokers and analysts in weighing up the current position and attempting to predict a pattern of events in the future is usually “what are the Chinese doing”?

From a global freight market viewpoint, the most prominent aspect has been the vast expansion of seaborne bulk commodity imports into China. In their offices during the late 1970s and early ’80s, some shipbrokers and analysts sat around talking about the possibility of China one day (within the foreseeable future) becoming a key factor affecting global bulk trade movements. Labelling this agreeable vista as a ‘great white hope’ did not seem too exaggerated. But the reality would take a long time to appear. Although in the 1990s there were distinct signs of a strong upwards trend from a low base, it was not until well after the millennium celebrations that China rapidly started becoming the most influential element.

In the early 2000s China’s dry bulk commodity imports averaged 8 percent of the global total. The 2002 figure was 217 million tonnes. Ten years later, in 2012, the total reached 1300 million tonnes, according to data compiled by Clarksons Research, raising the Chinese share of global dry bulk trade four-fold to 32 percent. This astonishing performance was driven by enormous expansion of iron ore imports for the steel industry. Other commodities also contributed strongly. Coal, for power station usage (steam coal) and for steel mill consumption (coking coal), was a key growth component, especially towards the end of the period. Rising soyabeans purchases and import volumes of several ‘minor’ bulk commodities were additional features.

The Chinese shipbuilding scene merits particular attention as well. When the 2000s began newbuilding vessel deliveries of all types from China’s shipyards totalled 3-4 million deadweight tonnes annually, a modest volume. In 2012 the total was massively larger at 65m dwt, comprising over two-fifths of the global total. Two years earlier, in 2010, China had become the world’s largest shipbuilder based on deadweight tonnage, overtaking South Korea. Then, last year, China also became number one on the basis of both deadweight tonnage and the dollar value of output.

Explanations for these striking developments (and for other prominent trends including oil imports, container trade and ship recycling) and perceptible pointers to the future will be examined intensely in the forthcoming GMI course. What is well known is that China’s economy has been a star performer, raising living standards sharply for a large proportion of the population. Sustained export competitiveness has been a notable achievement, both in shipbuilding and in sales of many other products including the vast quantities of consumer goods bought by countries around the world. Infrastructure building has greatly augmented growing Chinese domestic demand for manufactured goods, in turn adding to requirements for more raw materials and other commodities than could be provided from internal resources. Benefits for the world’s shipowners from the resulting imports have been very obvious.

Richard Scott
GMI Visiting Lecturer and MD, Bulk Shipping Analysis

One-Day Courses: Maritime Business in China; Maritime Crime; Maritime Genealogy

Three Course Leaflet

A Leading Global Player: Maritime Business Activities in China (A one-day short course)


The China Maritime Centre is holding a one-day course on Monday 10th June 2013 in Greenwich, UK.

Over the last decade China has become the leading influence shaping global seaborne trade, as result of a remarkable upsurge in trade volumes. This GMI short course will be led by the Director of China Maritime Centre Dr Minghua Zhao, international shipping analyst Richard Scott and researcher Yifan Liao who specialises in ship recycling. The aim of the course is to investigate how, and explain why, China has become such a prominent part of the global maritime scene within a relatively short period since the early 2000s, and to provide some clues about future trends.  

The course will focus on three specific areas of growth within the maritime industry in China:

 •China’s maritime trade and ports: a remarkable expansion

 •The rapidly growing China-owned merchant ship fleets

 •A new era for shipbuilding and ship recycling in China

The cost is £90 per person which includes lunch, refreshments, course materials and a certificate of attendance. A booking form can be found on the Greenwich Maritime Institute website:

Chinese Port