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Investigation finds China’s top ports have been ripping off shipping lines for years

Shipping lines calling at Chinese ports have been ripped off for years, a major investigation carried out by Beijing has concluded, and port fees at top ports could now be slashed by as much as a fifth.

China’s National Development and Reform Committee (NDRC) has recently concluded an anti-monopoly investigation into major ports in the country.

According to the NDRC, the two-month investigation uncovered a series of irregularities in several major ports including Shanghai, Tianjin, Ningbo-Zhoushan and Qingdao.

The investigation found that shipping companies have been forced to use towage services provided by port affiliate companies with no alternatives offered, cargo handling fees have regularly been overpriced, and many unreasonable terms have been added into contracts with shipping lines.

Following the investigation, NDRC has ordered the ports to open their towage markets and abolish unfair contract terms.

As a result, top ports will lower container handling fees by anywhere from 10% to 20% from 2018.

Meng Wei, a spokesperson at the NDRC, said the decrease in container handling fees at major ports could save import and export logistics costs of around RMB3.5bn in total each year ($527m).

In addition, NDRC ordered another 39 port companies to conduct self-inspection and rectification on the issues found at major ports.

In the next three years, China’s port operators have been ordered to file detailed operationaly reports to the anti-monopoly department at the NDRC.

Jason Jiang

Jason is one of the most prolific writers on the diverse China shipping & logistics industry and his access to the major maritime players with business in China has proved an invaluable source of exclusives. Having been working at Asia Shipping Media since inception, Jason is the chief correspondent of Splash and associate editor of Maritime CEO magazine. Previously he had written for a host of titles including Supply Chain Asia, Cargo Facts and Air Cargo Week.


  1. Strange, as the container handling fees are (or at least they used to be) “set” by the MOT (formally MOC) against which the port groups have some wriggle room to offer small discounts based on criteria such as; volume, growth, ownership, etc.

    The handling costs however, have always be high compared to the operating costs, and therefore the port groups and other investors have enjoyed high profits.

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