Why the world's largest electric car maker is taking on shipping

Prepare yourself

That's why Chinese car companies, which have become such prominent exporters thanks to the rise of electric cars, are starting to build their own shipping businesses.

There was news that BYD was looking to buy or lease ships first reported through the shipping point Lloyd's List in 2022 at the end In December of the same year, the company changed its corporate registration to include international cargo transportation and ship management activities. MIT Technology Review reached out to BYD for comment, but did not respond in time for publication.

BYD Explorer No.1 was introduced earlier this year. The RORO vessel, which can carry 7,000 cars at a time, is officially registered to Zodiac Maritime, a UK company controlled by Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Ofer, but has been chartered by BYD for an undisclosed period. To Press release, BYD says it plans to add seven more ships to its fleet over the next two years. It also plans to allow other companies to export their vehicles using BYD vessels.

On its maiden voyage, the ship is carrying more than 5,000 BYD vehicles and is sailing to the ports of Vlissingen in the Netherlands and Bremerhaven in Germany, According to Chinese state media Xinhua.

BYD is not the only Chinese automaker to take this step. in 2023 Chinese state-owned company SAIC Motor sold 1.2 million cars abroad. of vehicles, of which 24% were electric cars. in 2021 it has established a RORO shipping subsidiary and its latest RORO vessel, the largest of its kind and capable of carrying 7,600 cars, also set sail for the first time in January. How BYD Explorer No.1he is traveling to Europe.

Although BYD has announced that it will add energy-saving batteries to its vessels, the RORO vessels it charters today are not yet electric. Most newer ships can run on traditional fuels or liquefied natural gas, which is a cleaner energy source.

From pulp transportation to cars

It will take some time for these Chinese companies to finish assembling their shipping empires, as these huge new ships will take years to build. Meanwhile, some have taken creative fixes to supply shortages by redeploying ships that were destined for different types of cargo.

In particular, they look at the giant ships that are typically used to import thousands of tons of wood pulp from South America to China, where it is used to make everyday products such as cloth, paper and books. These wood pulp carriers are often empty or barely loaded on the way back because China does not have similar products to export.

Godfrey Kemp

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