Chinese intra-Asia carrier SITC Container Lines has launched a service connecting China’s Tianjin port with Vietnam and Malaysia.
The Hong Kong-based shipping and logistics firm has agreed to work with Tianjin Port Development Holdings, which was seeking a link with Southeast Asia as part of the Belt and Road initiative.
SITC will deploy four 1,800TEU vessels to the service, which will see the ships setting out from Tianjin and calling at Ho Chi Minh and Quy Nhon in Vietnam and Bintulu in Malaysia. The service began on 12 June, with SITC Keelung departing Tianjin.
In recent years, trade links between China and the countries along the Belt and Road have become increasingly frequent. In particular, the Asean bloc has become Tianjin’s largest foreign trading partner on the Belt and Road initiative.
According to statistics from Tianjin Customs, in the first four months of 2020, Tianjin’s total cargo value reached CNY214.77 billion (US$30.31 billion), of which Asean accounted for CNY29.1 billion (US$4.11 billion), a 5.7% increase from 2019.
Freight forwarder Star Shipping International has seen more exports to Southeast Asia, its general manager, Zhang Li, said, with manufacturing activity normalising in China following the first wave of Covid-19 infections. He added that as liner operators have added services connecting China with Southeast Asia, freight costs have fallen by 15%.
Ke Fei, general manager of SITC’s Shanghai branch, said the opening of the new route has created a direct service from China to southern Vietnam, as well as offering coverage of northern. At the same time, the service offers the only direct connection between China and Bintulu, significantly improving SITC’s presence in East Malaysia.
Increasing demand for tropical fruit in China will see SITC Keelung deliver 30 more containers of fruit from Southeast Asia, prompting Tianjin Port to open a green channel to expedite customs clearance for fruit cargoes.
The launch of the new service on 12 June, SITC International Holdings, the parent of SITC Container Lines, came the day after the logistics company signed a Strategic Cooperation Framework Agreement for Port and Shipping with Tianjin Port Group, a major port operator in the Port of Tianjin.
SITC CEO, Yang Xianxiang, and the president of Tianjin Port Group, Jiao Guangjun, signed the agreement, which commits the two bodies to speeding up the development of routes in Asia, while continuously optimising the network layout of Tianjin port routes, building a full logistics supply chain and expanding container services.
The two entities aim to give full play to the advantages of port and shipping, and promote the development of intermodal transport.
Martina Li Antonis Karamalegkos
Asia Correspondent Editor