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New direct route boosts Sino-UK trade

By LI XUEQING in Liverpool, the United Kingdom | China Daily | Updated: 2022-05-12 09:19
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Allseas Pioneer, a container ship carrying 1,631 containers of Chinese goods, sits at dock in the Port of Liverpool, the United Kingdom, on Friday. It is the first own-branded vessel to use the direct shipping route known as China Xpress-operated by British company Allseas Global Logistics. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Shipping service between ports of Shanghai, Liverpool helps both traders amid headwinds

A year ago, when Allseas Global Logistics started its Shanghai/Ningbo-Liverpool direct shipping route known as China Xpress, the service was a temporary move made to support supply chains that had been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company never expected at the time it would end up operating vessels of its own on the route.

But due to growing demand driven by booming bilateral trade, the British freight company has now leased six vessels, and plans to expand even more.

The inaugural call of Allseas Pioneer, the company's first freight ship in its fleet, carrying 1,631 containers of Chinese goods, arrived at the Port of Liverpool on Friday, marking another fruitful year of Sino-UK trade for the company.

Having set off from the Port of Ningbo, Zhejiang province, the ship, which can carry goods including furniture, construction materials, garments, and other daily necessities, will help stock stores across the United Kingdom.

China Xpress is different from many other shipping lines from China that call at southern UK ports, or those that tranship via Rotterdam, which can add an extra 10 days to the journey, said Darren Wright, founder and managing director of Allseas.

As the only shipping line that goes directly to Liverpool from China, which then feeds directly into the North of England region that accounts for 30 percent of the UK's trade, the route saw more than 60,000 containers move in and out of Britain during the past year, and supported more than 200 local businesses, according to Wright.

The direct route linking China and the North of England was welcomed by anxious Chinese suppliers who had faced backlogs in their warehouses because of disruption to other routes. It was also welcomed by UK stores eager to fill their shelves during the shortages created by the pandemic.

'Man of the moment'

During a late April event celebrating the first anniversary of China Xpress, Wright was referred to as the "man of the moment" by Zheng Zeguang, China's ambassador to the UK, who attended the ceremony as a part of his first formal visit outside London.

While congratulating the company on the anniversary of the trade route, the ambassador described it as "icing on the cake" of China-UK trade cooperation.

Wright said: "Traditional carriers were faced with equipment being stuck in ports around the world due to the pandemic. Vessels out of schedules, port closures, congestion and reduced labor were all major influences in the supply and demand imbalance.

"Whilst at the same time in the UK and Europe, consumer demand for household goods and PPE (personal protective equipment) products was at an all-time high, with people now forced to work and shop from home, and online purchases had increased to record levels."

The cost of shipping was also suddenly 10 times higher, he added.

Business was by no means easy for Chinese suppliers as well, according to Johnny Cheung, vice-president of Fastic Group, the local partner of Allseas Global Logistics based in Shanghai.

"The order has been placed, money has been paid, but the problem was how to get the cargo to the UK market," Cheung said. He added that when suppliers came to him, many were seeing their cargo piled up at factories and on docksides, waiting for transport.

To ease the problem, the company chartered three vessels for the direct China-Liverpool route, and word soon spread.

"Our transit time is two weeks quicker than anyone on the market," Wright said.

Cheung added, "Time makes everything in this industry, even one or two days can make a big difference."

Now, the company's signature direct shipping line provides direct service every 10 days, with vessels capable of carrying up to 1,700 containers port-to-port, from cities including Ningbo and Dongguan, Guangdong province, to Liverpool in 30 days, according to the company.

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