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China opens cabotage market to foreign carriers, Maersk carries out historical transportation

After the historical opening of the cabotage market in China, Maersk has announced its first batch of Chinese coastal relay of international cargo started today (31 May) its last leg of ocean transportation, en-route from Shanghai’s Yangshan terminal to Tianjin.

The 2008-built Merete Maersk has transported 27 containers from the Port of Vancouver in Canada to China for the historical transshipment.

"We are proud to be the first foreign company that successfully implements international cargo relay in China," said Soren Skou, CEO, A.P. Moller - Maersk, who went on to add, "Transshipment in Shanghai allows us to improve services through optimised networks and could also address some of the factors behind the bottlenecks in Chinese supply chains, shortening transit times, reducing emissions and freeing up additional capacity for our customers."

In China, international freight transport between two Chinese ports was historically considered cabotage and was therefore strictly prohibited for foreign carriers. Now, the Chinese authorities decided to change this regulation.

Skou described this decision as an "important step towards optimising relay regulations" and concluded, "we hope it will serve as an inspiration in other geographies where restrictions on international relay still exist."

In November 2021, China’s Ministry of Transport announced that international cargo relay would be allowed on a trial until the end of 2024. Based on third-country reciprocity conditions and meeting several additional criteria, qualified carriers can use their owned vessels to carry out international cargo relay between Shanghai Yangshan and northern Chinese ports, including Dalian, Tianjin and Qingdao, according to Maersk announcement.

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