Lianjiang: In the 1980s, the depletion of fishery resources in Lianjiang, a fishing village in Fujian, saw many local fishermen quit the business and look for work in bigger cities. Lin Cailong, a fisherman in the village, was determined to develop a business involving the ocean. Unlike thousands of others he didn’t choose to leave, but to start a shipping business.
Lin founded Fujian Crown Sea Shipping in 1988 with one wooden ship. Nowadays, Crown Sea has become a multi-sector enterprise with businesses in shipping, shipbuilding, real estate, trading and tourism.
Crown Sea currently runs a fleet of 17 vessels including bulk carriers and containerships. Total capacity of the fleet is about 160,000 dwt. It mainly transports bulk cargoes including iron ore, coal, steel and grain on domestic routes and feeder routes around Fujian, Hong Kong and Macau.
“As a company in both the shipping and shipbuilding industries, we have been facing challenges,” admits Lin, the president of the firm.
“On the shipping side, our strategy is to establish partnerships with big enterprises to secure cargo resources which should stabilise our operations and enhance our capability to deal with market risk,” he adds.
According to Lin, Crown Sea has currently established partnerships with many big names including Baosteel Group, China Shipping Group, China Huadian and Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics. The company has also invested in several bulk carriers to transport coal from northern ports including Qinhuangdao, Tianjin, Yingkou, Jinzhou and Qingdao to Fujian under deals with local power companies.
“When the shipping downturn came, we made the decision to take advantage of the small vessels in our fleet and focus our market on the short bulk shipping routes in the south of the country,” Lin says.
Crown Sea is also looking at the Yangtze River shipping market for future expansion. The company is currently operating a container shipping route from Yueyang in Hunan province along the Yangtze River to Hong Kong and Macau, the only service of its kind in China.
The company started its shipbuilding business through the establishment of Crown Ocean Shipbuilding with an investment of RMB600m in 2006. Lin decided to focus on offshore support vessels (OSVs) and bulkers at his yard from the outset. The shipyard has delivered more than 40 vessels and become one of the major shipbuilders in Fujian province and can claim to having the built the largest ship in the province to date, an 80,300 dwt bulker delivered four years ago.
“On the shipbuilding side, we have been working to expand our portfolio in the offshore market,” Lin says, while also diversifying into small passenger ferries.
“In order to meet the market demand for green ships, we have been making efforts to upgrade our technology level and design capabilities to develop more eco-friendly ship types,” Lin says.
“At the current market situation of shipbuilding, the bank’s support is also very essential to our ship export business,” he adds.
Crown Sea has been granted a credit facility of RMB700m by the China Exim Bank this year.
Looking into the future, Lin says Crown Sea will stick to a sustainable development path. The company will gradually replace its older vessels to more eco-efficient vessels through building new vessels and acquiring young second hand vessels. Meanwhile, it will also look for opportunities to diversify the group’s business into more sectors.
Lin features in the latest issue of SinoShip magazine which readers can access for free by clicking here. [15/12/14]