Hu Jintao’s visit to Denmark on June 14 – 16 has caused surprise and attracted much attention. Yet for the Danish shipping industry, the president of China is unquestionably the most important man as the top representative for the world’s largest market.
According to estimates by The Danish Shipowners’ Association, Danish ships transport up to 20 percent of the trade between China and Europe, which corresponds to a turnover of just about 35 – 40 billion Danish kroner a year.
“China is immensely important to Danish shipping, and the numbers we are taking about are pretty large. Today, China is by far our most important market, and it has been since it overtook USA’s position a few years ago,” says vice president of The Danish Shipowners’ Association, Jan Fritz Hansen. The shift between the two major markets is thrown into relief by earlier calculations which show that a Danish ship arrives at and departs from an American port every hour of the day.
“It speaks of the colossal scale we are dealing with. There is no doubt that China has grown enormously and that is is a development which has taken place in just the last few years,” says Jan Fritz Hansen.
Hansen believes that the breakthrough for Danish shipping came in the 1990s, when then EU Commissioner of Trade, Sir Leon Brittan, secured licenses from the Chinese authorities providing greater access to the Chinese market. Today, the Chinese market has been liberalized expect for when it comes to feeder and coasting trade or the same conditions that are known from the U.S. and the Jones Act.
The two licenses were awarded to A.P. Moeller and P&O NedLloyd, which Maersk later bought.
That the Danish share of China’s trade with Europe is extremely large is primarily a result of Maersk Line’s position as the world’s largest container company. Compared to China’s trade with the rest of the world, The Danish Shipowners’ Association estimates that Denmark accounts for 5 – 10 percent.