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November 18, 2021

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International shipping forum examines post-pandemic global supply chain

The North Bund waterfront in Hongkou District hosted a top international shipping forum to boost the global shipping industry and enhance international cooperation.

The forum was co-hosted by the Shanghai government and the Ministry of Transport. The event’s official theme was “Openness and Inclusiveness; Innovation and Reform, and Win-Win Cooperation: Embracing Future Development and Restructuring International Shipping.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory letter to the 2021 North Bund Forum for its grand opening.

China will make comprehensive efforts to restore and ensure the smooth flow of global industrial and supply chains amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Xi said.

The shipping industry is an important foundation for the development of international trade and an important link for friendly exchange between people worldwide, Xi said in the letter.

China is willing to work with other countries to overcome difficulties, to adapt to new shipping industry development trends like green, low-carbon and intelligent shipping, and also to deepen international cooperation in shipping affairs, Xi said.

China will promote the healthy development of the international shipping industry and contribute to building a community with a shared future for humanity, said Xi.

He hailed the positive role of the shipping industry in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, promoting trade recovery, and maintaining the stability of industrial and supply chains globally.

Shanghai Party Secretary Li Qiang said Shanghai is driving its construction for the international shipping center to “a new height.”

Li said the forum is expected to become a key exchange platform for global shipping issues, a publishing platform for major shipping policies and an area for new regulations to be implemented.

Shanghai will grasp the new opportunities and challenges facing the shipping industry, deepen cooperation in international shipping affairs and promote the healthy development of the shipping industry. The development of the shipping industry is integral to the prosperity of the world economy, international trade, and the well-being of people of all countries, Li said.

He said Shanghai will lead the transformation of the shipping industry with technological innovation and vigorously develop smart and green shipping strategies.

“Holding the forum at the North Bund was very meaningful as it sits at the intersection of Suzhou Creek and the Huangpu River, the two main rivers connecting Shanghai with inland waterways and the Yangtze River,” Li noted on the forum.

“Shanghai thrived on the rivers and the sea, and shipping is of vital importance for the city’s development,” he added.

Gong Zheng, the mayor of Shanghai, said the city will speed up the construction of a world-class seaport and airport hub in the Yangtze River Delta with the goal of creating a world-class international shipping center.

The city also aims to promote de-carbonization and enhance cooperation with the international shipping industry, Gong said.

Shanghai Initiative

Li Xiaopeng, the Minister of Transport, said the building of transportation infrastructure paved the way for China’s modernization, and the development of China’s shipping industry has attracted global attention with world-class ports and harbors that connect countries and facilitate trade.

As a highlight of the forum, the “Shanghai Initiative: Smoothing the International Supply Chain” initiative was released on the forum by more than 10 leading shipping and civil aviation companies and organizations both home and abroad, including COSCO Shipping, China Eastern Airlines and the Baltic and International Maritime Councils.

The initiative asked the global shipping sectors to cooperate to advance intelligent, green and sustainable development technologies and practices as well as cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and contribute to global economic recovery.

It aims to safeguard the cross-border transportation of anti-pandemic materials and supplies while protecting the health and safety of workers involved so as to gradually restore the global supply chain system.

“We’re willing to collaborate to promote the in-depth application of the new generation of information technology, including big data, the Internet of Things, blockchain and artificial intelligence, and strive for innovative development and an industrial transformation of the global supply chain,” the initiative says.

“Let’s join hands and contribute to the building of a safe, smooth and green global supply chain,” said Wan Min, chairman of the China COSCO Shipping Group, who read the initiative at the forum on behalf of the initiators.

The forum, held in Shanghai this year, aims to boost the global shipping industry and enhance international cooperation, both of which have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials from China’s Ministry of Transport, the Shanghai government, and the United Nations, as well as international maritime and civil aviation organizations along with famous economists made speeches at the main forum.

Foreign guests in other countries shared their opinions through the Internet amid the pandemic.

Continuing to deliver throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, shipping remains at the core of the global supply chain to support international trade and to ensure global economic development, said Kitack Lim, secretary-general of the International Maritime Organization.

“Indeed, shipping will also be at the heart of the global post-COVID recovery,” Lim said. “Digitization is a key element that can bring the shipping industry into a new era by ensuring maritime safety, promoting environmental protection, managing cybersecurity risks and improving operational efficiency.”

Confidence boost

Stephen Creamer, director of the Air Navigation Bureau at the International Civil Aviation Organization, said the year 2020 witnessed the worst decline in civil aviation in history with passenger levels falling back to 2003 levels and airline and industry losses totaling close to a half-trillion dollars.

“We are also now beginning to see the effects of the massive global vaccination initiative and signs of more steady and sustainable recovery,” said Creamer.

The Asia Pacific region has been leading that recovery in many respects, largely on account of a domestic market resurgence in China which returned the economy to pre-pandemic levels by the end of last year, he told the forum.

“We must continue to work very closely together at the multilateral level to revitalize international exchange and cooperation and enhance the development of global tourism and trade to drive increased prosperity for all,” said Creamer.

“The forum held amid global economic downturn aims to enhance global cooperation and use the shipping industry to bridge global trade and boost the healthy development of the world’s economy,” said Shanghai Vice-Mayor Zhang Wei.

Furthermore, the forum is expected to become a new means of support for Shanghai’s ambition to become the leading international shipping center, he added.

Shanghai ports handled 43.5 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units last year, leading the world for the 11th consecutive year. The city has also become one of the top three shipping centers for the first time, according to the Xinhua-Baltic Exchange International Shipping Center Development Index.

Shanghai’s total value of imports and exports hit a record high in 2020 of 3.48 trillion yuan (US$545 billion), increasing 2.3 percent from the previous year.

According to the city’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) on international shipping center construction, its annual container throughput will reach at least 47 million 20-foot equivalent units by 2025, the annual throughput of air-passenger travel will reach at least 130 million, and the annual throughput of cargo ships will reach 4.1 million tons or above.

Shanghai is striving to become the world’s leading shipping center with rising global influence, the top official of China’s maritime administration told a sub-forum at the North Bund Forum.

Shanghai has established itself as a top-class shipping center with convenient and efficient operations and comprehensive functions as well as open, green, intelligent and supportive services, said Cao Desheng, director of the China Maritime Safety Administration.

He made the remarks at a forum themed on “safety and cooperation.” Officials and experts of global shipping sectors shared their views on the topic, suggesting that people “work together to strengthen maritime safety and enable shipping advancement.”

China has been taking an active part in international maritime issues to help enhance global cooperation and shipping governance, Cao said.

The Maritime Safety Administration of China submitted 417 proposals to the various councils of the International Maritime Organization between 2014 and 2020.

The administration also led in establishing standards and regulations such as a guideline on the safe use of shore electricity of vessels. The country’s Beidou navigation system has been included in the international maritime standard.

The administration has also shared its experience with global counterparts about how to protect shipping workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

China’s maritime industry has greatly contributed to the reduction of the impact of the pandemic and ensured a smooth supply chain globally during the pandemic, according to the administration.

“China will create a modern, smart safety management system, drive open and tolerant international cooperation, and build strong supportive services to foster quality development of maritime sectors,” said Cao.

Chen Chuanquan, director of the Donghai Rescue Bureau of the Ministry of Transport, said a modern and professional rescue system will be created by the end of 2025, featuring “full coverage on both rivers and seas, ready in all weather with fast response time and efficient treatment.”

Historic transport hub

The history of the North Bund dates back to the late 19th century. The British East India Company built the first barge dock between Dongdaming Road and Gaoyang Road in 1845, two years after Shanghai opened its port to global business.

Over 20 docks and a dozen warehouses lined the waterfront some 170 years ago, making it the most important shipping port in the city.

Foreign celebrities, such as Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, Bertrand Russell, and Bernard Shaw, first set foot on Chinese soil at the North Bund port. The nation’s first group of students to study abroad set sail from there.

During World War II, the shikumen, the unique Shanghai stone-gate residences, at the North Bund offered a safe haven for many Jewish refugees fleeing the horrors of Nazi Germany. About 23,000 Jews found shelter in the city, particularly in the Tilanqiao area of the North Bund.

According to the blueprint, the riverside business district will include lifestyle and recreation elements and more convenient transport. It will focus on the ecological environment and develop more public spaces for residents and tourists.

The North Bund is already home to more than 4,700 shipping-related companies, including COSCO Shipping, Shanghai International Port Group, the China Shipowners’ Association, and Costa Cruises, and is China’s most densely gathered shipping industry zone.

The riverside region is part of Shanghai’s “golden triangle,” along with the Lujiazui financial hub in the Pudong New Area and the Bund in Huangpu District. The latest development plan’s blueprint released by the city’s planning authority includes more economic, scientific and cultural elements to create a “world-class parlor” in Shanghai.

About 8.4 million square meters of new office space has been planned that will be home to nearly 100 international companies and organizations. The new office buildings will generate annual tax revenue of more than 100 million yuan, while the number of multinational firms based in the riverside region will significantly expand.

As a highlighted project, construction will begin on a 480-meter building, covering an area of about 350,000 square meters. The building is earmarked to drive the development of high-end industries and become a home to global enterprises.

The plot of land near Dantu, Dongchangzhi, Gaoyang and Tangshan roads will see 24 percent of its area used for commercial enterprise, restaurants, and hotels, while the rest will be used for offices.

The riverside space will remain focused on the shipping and finance sectors with additional office buildings available for multinational headquarters. It will also develop supplementary businesses such as exhibition, education, culture, hotel, and life services, according to urban planners.

Planners have researched global urban planning experiences and practices in London, New York and Tokyo to help shape their master plans.


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