Intra-Asia box volumes set to surge
Surging demand from China"s rapidly expanding middle class is set to drive significant growth in intra-Asian box volumes so that the region generates 50% of global container traffic by around 2015, according to a top industry participant.
Ken Bloom, chief executive of e-commerce platform Inttra, said intra-Asian trade formed about 35% of the container market.
?We believe it is the fastest growing of all the trade lanes. In about five years intra-Asia will form about 50% of the market,? he said.
Mr Bloom said most would be the result of the growth of wealth in China with more disposable income from the rising middle class that would favour imports.
?One new city of 1m people will be created each year for 15 years. That is where all the demand will come from.?
Mr Bloom pointed out that the expansion and overhaul of China"s rail system with dedicated freight and high-speed passenger rail, coupled with moves to raise minimum wages in the hinterland, would encourage people to live inland. This would provide the impetus to expand inland container trade links.
China United International Rail Containers, a joint venture set up by China Railways, Hong Kong NWS Holdings and shipping lines including CMA CGM, is already developing a network of 18 rail container terminals in China.
A terminal at Chongqing in the heart of south-west China started operating in December, and the facility in Kunming posted a 31% rise in volumes to 110,000 teu last year. Construction of the terminals in Zhengzhou, Chengdu, Dalian, Qingdao, Wuhan and Xian is expected to be completed this year, and all 18 rail container terminals are due to be completed by end of 2012.
Mr Bloom said that as intra-Asia volumes picked up, so boxships of around 4,000 teu-8,000 teu idled in places such as Singapore would be brought back into service.
Turning to Inttra"s own performance, Mr Bloom said the electronic shipping platform processed 14m containers last year, equivalent to 11% of world trade. The volume growth in container orders initiated on the platform in Asia has averaged more than 80% in the past two years.
He added that the company, which received $30m recapitalisation from US-based company ABS Capital in January, saw total volume growth climb 13% while global container volumes crashed 20% last year.
But Mr Bloom said Inttra was keen to expand its network with ambitions to add liner companies such as Evergreen Marine, Orient Overseas Container Lines, Wan Hai Lines and Yang Ming Marine.
He added that Inttra had opened a development centre in China and an office in Japan, while expanding its global development and service centre in Singapore, to help grow its carrier network.