In 1933 Carl Denham called King Kong the 8th Wonder of the World.If he were alive today, actor Robert Armstrong might say that distinction belonged to Yangshan Port. Jewel of the Shanghai International Port Group, Yangshan is located in Hangzhou Bay just south of Shanghai. It is built on the islands of Greater and Lesser Yangshan in the Zhoushan archipelago and connected to the mainland by the 20-mile Donghai Bridge and Causeway.Growth and DevelopmentIn 2002 Shanghai Port Authority undertook the building of a massive new terminal to handle the increased traffic from North China. Developed as a state of the art facility, Yangshan would rival mega ports in Southeast Asia such as Singapore and Tanjung Pelepas. In 2003 the expansive undertaking prompted port officials to go public, offering shares in the newly created Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG). SIPG is listed on the Shanghai Exchange with the municipal government owning 44.23% of the port.
To create the massive facility, dredging material was compacted to extend the land area between the Yangshan islands. The port was completed in 2015 after four phases of construction, which brought its total area up to 600 acres. The total cost has reached well over $11 billion. A six-lane causeway connects the Zhenghaicun District of Shanghai to the Shixiangzi container complex. It took 6,000 workers over two years to complete.
Operating a Mega Port There is a 49-foot depth alongside the massive quay, which spans three and a half miles. Sixty-five Post Panamax, Neo Panamax and or Suez class cranes sit on 30 berths capable of handling ships as large as 19,000 to 22,000 TEUs.A bird’s eye view might reveal as many as 20 container ships and lighters working at any one time. Suez class ships like the CSCL Globe at 19,000 TEUs with an overall length of 1,312 ft and a 194-ft beam are common. Vessels in that class are worked with 8 container cranes which is unheard of in the United States. This assures that ships depart in a timely manner. In fact it’s not uncommon to see a 12,000 to 14,000 TEU ship being worked with 5 cranes. In 2014 Shanghai handled 35.285 million TEUs beating its closest rival Singapore by 1.415 million containers. Today Yangshan is the busiest container port in the world.White Elephant or Crown JewelLast month the World Trade Organization (WTO) revised its forecast for global trade growth to 1.7%, a third lower than earlier predictions this year. Built in China’s era of double-digit trade, Yangshan could soon become a ghost of its former self.Revenue for Q-3-15 stood at 7.5 billion Yuan a decline of 18% from the previous year. The Shanghai Shipping Exchange freigh index also reported a 27% decline since the beginning of 2015. In that same period container volume slumped 1.1% from a high of 35.29 million TEUs in 2014. Sensing the economic climate, The Ministry of Transportation (MOT) issued new business guidelines in port development, which had mainly been driven by annual TEU growth. Chinese ports would now focus on qualitative improvements in service. Each major facility would become more sophisticated in the services it offered to its carrier clients. In that regard, to bolster sagging revenue Yangshan aggressively marketed its size and services in order to take trans-shipment cargo away from its higher cost rival, Hong Kong. While it appears that Yangshan has turned the corner on increased container growth, it remains in step with other mega ports around the world. With a new directive toward quality of service, the port will seek unique avenues of commerce and cargo growth. Will China’s star port shine as brightly in the future?