By Lee Hong Liang from Singapore
With the conclusion of the 2016 Chinese Lunar New Year and the start of the Year of the Monkey under the Chinese calendar, China has recently published the draft of its 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), a blueprint for economic and social reforms and developments.
There are as many as 100 targets for China to achieve over the five-year period ahead, and naturally shipping and maritime related issues only account for a small number of them. In selecting what is relevant to shipping, there are a handful of goals such as developing “smart ports”, extending deepwater and subsea activities, constructing more ice-breaking vessels, and transforming the ship equipment industry.
In the area of ports development, the ports of Shanghai, Tianjin, Dalian, Xiamen, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Qingdao and Ningbo-Zhoushan will go through some structural changes to promote them as shipping hubs to the world.
The idea of “smart ports” has been mooted as the plan outlines the wider use and application of various technology to greatly raise port productitivity and efficiency, while reducing manpower wastage through automation.
While not so much shipping related but ocean-related, China is looking at developing its deepwater activities via the deployment of drillships and engaging in more subsea geological research. China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation’s (CSIC) 702 Research Institute has introduced a so-called “deepwater space station’, a manned submersible type of deepsea unit to engage in complex, subsea work for scientific and research purposes.
Beijing buys the idea that having a greater grasp on deepsea R&D is an important milestone to achieve if China is to become a maritime powerhouse on the global stage.
The five-year plan also proposes for China to build more ice-breaking vessels to support polar expeditions. The country currently has only one ice-breaker in operation, and a second has recently passed the design stage.
China believes that only though extensive ocean surveys will it be able to enhance its understanding of the oceans, and thus help in environmental protection as well as giving the country a louder voice on the international maritime arena.
Under the ship equipment category, the five-year plan aims to complete ship-related R&D works, establish worldclass ship design and equipment manufacturing facilities, and have greater control over the design and production of ship engines and other operating systems. The ship equipment action plan also seeks to strengthen core technology R&D, carry out quality branding building exercise, and promote the demonstration and application of key components.
The five-year plan, meanwhile, also includes restructural reform of the industrial supply that is suffering from excessive capacity. The curb on such supply particularly in the steel-making and coal sectors is expected to increase commodity imports and hence boost activity for dry bulk shipping.
All in all, not an awful lot directly touches on shipping under the new five-year plan. But the ones listed will still help to consolidate China’s position as a growing maritime nation.
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