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SAIC pushes the boat out with foreign export fleet

By CAO YINGYING | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-22 09:30
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SAIC Motor's first locally-invested and built oceangoing car carrier, SAIC Anji Sincerity, prepares for its maiden voyage from Shanghai to Europe on Jan 17. [Photo/CHINA DAILY]

SAIC Motor's first locally-invested and built oceangoing car carrier, also known as Ro-Ro cargo vessel, took its maiden voyage from Shanghai to Europe on Wednesday, which is expected to strengthen the carmaker's export capabilities and contribute to the expansion of its overseas business.

Named SAIC Anji Sincerity, the vessel measures 200 meters in length, 38 meters in width and is 13 stories tall, offering space for 7,600 standard-size passenger cars. It is also China's largest clean energy vehicle transport ship.

In its maiden voyage, the vessel carried 5,000 vehicles, including SAIC's MG and Maxus models, along with vehicles from Dongfeng Motor and Yutong.

It is operated by SAIC's logistics subsidiary Anji, which runs China's largest self-owned network of car-carrying vessels. The company owns 31 ships that run seven international routes in regions including Southeast Asia, Mexico and Europe.

The Ro-Ro ship is equipped with a dual-fuel system that uses liquefied natural gas and diesel, which enables it to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent compared to ships of a similar size.

A round trip to Europe reduces carbon emissions by 1,300 metric tons, equivalent to planting 500,000 trees, according to Jin Qi, general manager of SAIC Anji Logistics.

The vessel meets the highest criteria for environmental protection and emission requirements in countries and regions such as North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Jin added.

It also features an intelligent platform, which collects information and data of the whole ship for centralized management of the vessel's operating system.

SAIC Anji Logistics plans to expand its Ro-Ro fleet with 14 vessels over the next three years with a total investment of 10 billion yuan ($1.39 billion). Among them, a vessel similar to SAIC Anji Sincerity will be operational in the second half of this year, assisting in the international expansion of Chinese brands, according to Jin.

The expansion of the ocean fleet is being propelled by the rapid growth of SAIC's overseas business, which set a record in 2023 by exporting 1.21 million units, up 18.8 percent year-on-year. This marks the eighth consecutive year SAIC has secured a top position among local carmakers.

Among them, new energy vehicles accounted for 24 percent in 2023 and SAIC's first global car, the MG4 EV, has become the best-selling compact EV in Europe.

The MG brand achieved global sales of more than 840,000 units in 2023, securing the title of the top-selling Chinese brand overseas for the fifth consecutive year.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of MG and it aims to achieve 1 million sales globally.

In the next two years, SAIC plans to launch 14 NEV models worldwide. Currently, all products designed by SAIC adhere to global standards. Vehicles from its brands IM Motors and Rising Auto will also be exported in 2025.

The carmaker aims to export 1.35 million vehicles this year and 1.5 million in 2025, according to Zhao Aimin, deputy general manager of SAIC International.

Zhao said that following the principle of building factories where the sales are, SAIC plans to finalize the site selection and construction approach for its European factory this year.

As the world's largest auto exporter, China's vehicle exports reached 4.91 million units in 2023, jumping 57.9 percent year-on-year.

Despite China's auto industry entering a new export era, it is facing challenges such as rising rents, shipping capacity constraints and fierce competition for car carriers. Experts said that establishing shipping fleets holds strategic significance for Chinese automakers, ensuring the security and stability of the supply chain.

Owning ships allows automakers to ensure export business stability, cut transportation costs and guarantee timely delivery to overseas customers, according to Xie Xiaowen, an expert from the China Communications and Transportation Association, reported Xinhua News Agency.

Chen Jia, a researcher at Renmin University of China, said that Chinese automakers' shipping fleets are poised to break the long-standing monopoly of foreign shipping companies on crucial routes and markets, laying a solid foundation for the global trajectory of Chinese automakers.

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