In 2023, AAL Shipping (AAL), a global leader in the multipurpose project heavy lift shipping sector, celebrates the 25th anniversary of the establishment of ‘AAL China’. As China continues to see economic growth through its re-emergence from pandemic lock-down and its dual circulation policy, AAL remains committed to serving the Chinese market and multipurpose cargo stakeholders.

The carrier’s 25 years of own operations in China have seen it establish offices and teams of shipping professionals in Beijing and Qingdao, apart from its regional HQ in Shanghai. This development has coincided with the country’s economic rise. From the start of its period of reform and opening in 1978 until 2019, China saw an average annual growth of 9.5%, almost doubling the size of its economy every eight years and becoming the second-largest economy in the world in 2011.

Jack Zhou, General Manager of AAL China, Explained, ‘AAL started its shipping operations early 1995, providing a breakbulk, multipurpose liner service between South-East Asia and Papua New Guinea, Queensland and the Northern Territories of Australia. For over two decades, Shanghai has been our home port and number one for cargo calls – representing almost 18% of our export cargo volumes from China. Over the last decade alone, we have seen our Chinese export volumes grow by 240 percent and imports by 150 percent and in this period called Chinese ports close to 1,600 times.

‘In 1998, AAL opened its first representative office in Shanghai and we have never looked back – building a local service offering of scheduled monthly liner services and regular trade lanes that connect China with key trade partners across Asia, Middle East, Europe, the Americas and Oceania.’

Last year, China registered a trade surplus of US$877.6 billion, with a jump of 7% in exports and 1.1% in imports compared to 2021 and attests to its economic prominence on the world stage. During the recent pandemic, the Chinese government further proposed an economic policy of ‘dual circulation’. This strategy supports trade growth by placing equal emphasis on expanding exports (external circulation) and increased domestic demand, which will be driven primarily by rising consumption (internal circulation).

With the world economy so dependent upon geo-political stability, China faces challenges in depending solely on exports in 2023. As a result, the local government has emphasised the need to increase domestic demand, boost market confidence, shore up its export partner relationships and stabilise employment, growth, and prices.

Kyriacos Panayides, CEO of AAL added, ‘We are incredibly proud to be so well represented in China and our local team has done an outstanding job in understanding and addressing the ocean transport needs of our local customers and partners. As friend-shoring becomes a popular term among corporations in supply chain decision-making, AAL believes in maintaining a reliable local supply chain to serve the Chinese multipurpose and project heavy lift market while continuing to boost our seaborn trade volumes through the region.’

For 2023, institutional and market economists have varied forecasts for the size and timing of the Chinese economic rebound, but there is a very clear pattern of continuous growth. China recently set itself a 5% economic growth target for this year, close to the 5.2% predicted by Morgan Stanley, 5.2% by PwC, 4.9% by Bloomberg, 4.9% by JP Morgan and 4.5% by the IMF. The region’s trade surplus also grew to US$877.6 billion in 2022, with an increase in both exports and imports.

Panayides concluded, ‘With decades of strong investment, China has transformed into a supply chain behemoth, and has so much to offer the global multipurpose cargo sector and the dynamic industries it supports and we will continue to work closely with our local stakeholders to build our services and provide solutions for them. As AAL Shipping moves forward, it remains committed to serving the market and is optimistic about China’s economic prospects.


Today at the CSSC Huangpu Wenchong Shipyard in Guangzhou China, a traditional steel cutting ceremony took place for the first of AAL’s SIX new Super B-Class 32K DWT heavy lift MPVs, the ‘AAL Limassol’ – expected in the water 2024.

Representing AAL was our General Manager of AAL China, Jack Zhou and representing sister company, Columbia Shipmanagement (CSM), was Project Manager Rangel Vassilev. 

Our new Super B-Class heavy-lift fleet was designed by AAL’s own engineers in collaboration with sister company Columbia Shipmanagement and harnesses our vast experience in handling project heavy lift, breakbulk and dry bulk commodities around the world since 1995. These ‘mega-size’ vessels are 32,000 deadweight tonnes and measure 179.9 meters in overall length, with a beam of 30 meters. They have a depth of 15.5 meters and feature a low ballast draft of 6.5 meters. Each can carry up to 80,000 freight-tonnes of breakbulk cargo.

The weather deck provides 4,500 square meters of clear cargo loading space, with extendable pontoons available on the starboard side. Three port-mounted heavy lift cranes each support 350 tonnes, with tandem lifting of cranes 1 & 2 and 2 & 3 providing a 700-tonne maximum lift and an outreach of 35.7 meters. This allows to spread cargo loading to the fore and aft of the vessel, optimising stowage space and time. 

The forward-positioned bridge and accommodation block delivers unobscured sailing visibility, with no physical restriction on cargo height. Under deck, two large bulk-friendly cargo holds, with tripe-deck facility, measure 68 x 25 and 38 x 25 meters, with a height of 15.6 meters. And – whilst sailing with hatch covers open – can offer extremely tall cargoes safe accommodation.

The Super B-Class vessels are dual fuel compatible – equipped with 7,380-kilowatt main engines and two 1,600 and one 900-kilowatt auxiliary diesel generators. With new ballast water treatment and hull coating technologies, these vessels minimise CO2 emissions and meet all forthcoming IMO regulations.