Danish shipping company Maersk became the first foreign carrier to carry out an international cargo relay in China.

The relay included 27 containers from Vancouver, Canada, which were loaded onto the Merete Maersk boxship en route from the Yangshan terminal in Shanghai to Tianjin.

The operation was conducted as part of the China State Council’s 2019 strategy to accelerate the development of the international shipping centre in Shanghai.

Last November, China’s Ministry of Transport decided to allow international cargo relay on a trial basis until 2024.

Qualified carriers will be allowed to use their vessels for international cargo relay between Shanghai Yangshan and northern Chinese ports, including Dalian, Tianjin and Qingdao, based on certain conditions.

International cargo relay shipments between two Chinese ports have historically been seen as cabotage and banned for foreign carriers.

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Busan in South Korea, Singapore and other international ports were instead used for transhipment.

Maersk CEO Soren Skou said: “We are proud to be the first foreign company that successfully implements international cargo relay in China.

“Transhipment in Shanghai allows us to improve services through optimised networks and could also address some of the factors behind the bottlenecks in Chinese supply chains, shortening transit times, reducing emissions and freeing up additional capacity for our customers.

“We appreciate this initiative by the Chinese authorities. It is an important step towards optimising relay regulations, and we hope it will serve as an inspiration in other geographies where restrictions on international relay still exist.”

In March, Maersk subsidiary APM Terminals announced plans to offload its 30.75% interest in Russia’s Global Ports Investments.