The growing influence of the Far East
It seems that developments in the shipping industry often mirror those happening in the wider political and economic world – with the ever-increasing shift in power from the western hemisphere to the Far East and countries such as China whose economy continues to develop at pace.
One of China’s largest shipping conglomerates, the China Shipping Group, has intentions to increase its presence around the world – both in shipping and port management – and recently signed an agreement with the China Development Bank to secure $8bn of credit to underpin its investment plans in ships and ports. Earlier this year the Group bought into ownership of Zeebrugge Container Terminals – one of Europe’s most important ports. Although AP Moeller-Maersk still have a majority ownership stake in Zeebrugge, this was a symbolic move by the China Shipping Group who are keen to build strong influence in the European ports network. Zeebrugge was already subject to Far East investment in the form of the Shanghai International Port Group who took a 25% stake back in 2010.
The China Shipping Group is under the direct administration of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, so with state backing it is likely to grow its worldwide influence even further in the coming years. Investment from overseas in port infrastructure, as most recently seen in the UK with DP World’s London Gateway project, is likely to become more prominent too. As with the shipbuilding industry, which has also seen a very discernible shift in power to shipyards in the Far East, the question is whether such trends are an inescapable and perhaps positive trend of wider globalisation or will at some point cause political or economic risk for countries and companies with diminishing influence in the world of shipping and marine infrastructure.
HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR