ContainersGreater China

China’s crackdown on waste imports could wipe out up to 5m teu of backhaul business

China’s crackdown on waste imports, which come into law from March 1, could hit containerlines for as much as 5m teu of business, a new report from Drewry Maritime Advisors warns.

China has provided liners with significant backhaul volumes in recent years taking waste paper and textiles, a number of other recyclable materials as well as Vanadium slag from overseas. However, in January as part of Beijing’s efforts to improve the environment it announced it would ban such imports effective from March 1. Drewry estimates that the ban could take 4m to 5m teu of business away from the world’s containerlines. Nevertheless, the analysts at Drewry stressed that the loss of business was for low cost backhaul cargoes.

“For the carriers, this development will not break the bank, as the ocean freight earned for backhaul waste shipments is extremely low. But they do at least offer some contribution, at least, to the costs of repositioning containers back to Asia,” Drewry noted.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. Although 5-million teu is not a particularly big number in the overall scheme of the industry, and the ocean freight earned may be extremely low, it is interesting to ponder the lift-on & lift-off crane handling charges, those being ~ USD$300 total for both on-load & off-load and therefore ~ USD$1.5-billion in cost that is born for just this component in the re-positioning formula …
    Possibly, my arithmetic or simple-minded-analysis … or both … is missing the point, as this seems like a fairly large number to me?

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