China enjoys a long history in marine transport. As early as the Spring and Autumn Period, shipbuilding industry had taken the initial shape in Wu and Yue states where water transport was thriving. It was at that time that ports came into being. Later in the Tang Dynasty, Guangzhou Port became a well-developed international trade port. Nowadays, as global economy undergoes slight changes, ports are developing in line with the trend.
Road to Transformation
In the past, ports in China and ASEAN were places for docking, loading and unloading of goods, transshipment, and storage, serving as a “transportation hub”. In the process of world’s port history, they belong to the “first generation” ports.
Nowadays, these ports not only play their traditional role, but also diversify themselves into the “second generation” ports by making good use of their advantages to accelerate port industrial cluster. Since the “second generation” ports have industrial and commercial functions in promoting the construction of port cities and the development of logistics and export processing, they are defined as “service centers” which could add value to goods. In the near future, logistics integration will become the trend, and at the same time, regional economic integration will direct port logistics towards internationalization, scalization and systemization.
Bilateral trade between China and ASEAN has maintained continuous growth in recent years. China and ASEAN signed the Agreement on Trade in Services, providing convenience to law coordination and logistics services between the two sides. From the long term view, the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area has set up a favorable platform for the logistics development of China and ASEAN, offering more opportunities for logistics enterprises within the region to promote trade development. Meanwhile, with the integrating of transportation systems of countries, the enhanced regional cooperation in transportation and smoother channels for logistics to be involved in border trade and cross- border trade, logistics industries in China and ASEAN will enjoy more development space in the opening up.
In the trend of economic globalization, market internationalization and information networking, some large ports in the world begin to transform into the “third generation”, the function of which is redefined as “international logistics center”. It takes port development as the breakthrough point for logistics, and drives import and export trade via core business of port logistics which is radiated to surrounding areas, so as to promote port logistics and achieve a positive circle. In this way, the core function of port logistics is to transfer from the original land-and- sea intermediate center to integrated logistics center which serves both economic development and international trade. Hence, port logistics in China and ASEAN will see new development opportunities, and ports in the region will get fully prepared for their transformation into the “third generation”.
New Blueprint for Port Logistics
Balanced development among port city infrastructure, port industry and port service industry not only relies on the hinder land, but more importantly rests with export-oriented economy. Only by this could the advantages of port cities be brought into full play, aiming at realizing the plan for international logistics centers. With the formation of new megalopolises and rise of maritime economic zone, the competition between hardware facilities and supporting services among global port cities will become fiercer. Modern port logistics, as an important pillar for port service industry, is bound to face more competition.
Pan-Beibu Gulf area is abundant with ports. Within the region, there are over 100 ports from the ASEAN countries, among which the Ho Chi Minh Port, Haiphong Port and Cam Pha Port of Vietnam, Port Klang, Bintulu Port and Johor Port of Malaysia, Tanjung Priok Port of Indonesia, Port of Manila of the Philippines and Port of Singapore are all grand ports with an annual throughput of over 10 million tons. Hong Kong Port is a major regional port, and Port of Singapore is one of the fourth biggest in the world.
These ports, as seaways of the Pan- Beibu Gulf, play a pivot role in Asian- Pacific economic development. At the same time, they have posed multifaceted competition which is turning white-hot. The homogeneity in port functions and port industries might lead to waste of resources, which tells us that the integration of port resources is imperative.
At present, ports of Guangxi, Guangdong, Hainan and Hong Kong from China have opened container and bulk cargo routes with ports of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia etc, and established friendly relations with them. China-ASEAN port resources are gradually integrated and optimized, which would lead to improved port logistics services. However, port logistics of China and the ASEAN countries is still in the medium range compared to the well-developed ports in the Europe and US. The development experience of modern port logistics of the Europe and US, especially their experience in modern logistics management such as transportation risk, logistics standardization, port management technologies and the cultivation of logistics talents, are all of great value for the construction of port logistics in China and ASEAN.
Maritime Logistics as the Focus
The “third generation” ports serve as both the hub for joint sea-and- rail transportation and the distributing center of international commodities, which integrates logistics service, business service, information service and personnel service, forming an “international logistics center” with wider logistics services.
With regard to the transformation of Chinese and ASEAN ports into the “third generation” ports, Zhang Hanlin, Professor of the University of International Business and Economics, put forward that, efforts must be made to enhance the cooperation between ports of Guangxi and the ASEAN countries, open ocean going services, reinforce port cooperation mechanisms including the coordination mechanism, fellowship mechanism, information sharing mechanism and resource sharing mechanism, speed up the construction of “sister ports”, and set up unified electronic port data platform and port service network platform, so as to achieve information and resource sharing and raise customs clearance efficiency.
Ever since the pragmatic implementation of maritime cooperation between China and ASEAN, the China-ASEAN Port Cities Cooperation Network has been quietly carried out, regarded as a flagship project. “In the process of the implementation of China-ASEAN Port Cities Cooperation Network, China has carried out three projects including opening the container liner routes from Qinzhou Port to Kuantan Port, establishing China-ASEAN Port Logistics Information Center and China-ASEAN Port Cities Cooperation Network,” said Yang Xiuping, Chinese Ambassador to ASEAN.
In the future, China-ASEAN maritime logistics will become the highlight, and more sea routes will be opened between China and the ASEAN countries, forming a regional shipping network, which would provide shipping services to the free trade between China and ASEAN and improve the China- ASEAN Port Cities Cooperation Network both in depth and breadth.