By Namrita Chow, Asia correspondent
China’s southern port of Qinzhou, on the border with Vietnam, will begin finished vehicle imports next month and has established bonded checkpoint services for the purpose. The move is significant given China’s restrictions on the number of ports with permission to accept vehicle imports compared to the large number that can be used for exports. Qinzhou is only the fifth such port to do so. By 2015 it is expected to import 50,000 cars annually and push annual vehicle exports up to 250,000 in the same year. Formal permission for import and export activity is expected from the government by the end of September.
“We have two terminals for assembled automobile imports—we plan to import a range of assembled cars in October,” Chong Huang, assistant to the director of Qinzhou port’s Investment & Promotion Department, told Automotive Logistic News. Around 5,000 finished vehicles are expected to be imported in to China at the Qinzhou port in October with storage available at a new parking lot currently nearing completion.
Qinzhou status as free port for assembled car imports and exports means it joins Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou and Dalian, but the Qinzhou bonded area in China’s Guangxi autonomous region is reported to be the country’s only checkpoint for whole-car imports.
Qinzhou Free Trade Port has a total area of 10km2 with current Phase 1 development covering 2.5km2. The ro-ro terminal is expected to be complete by the end of 2011 according to Huang but the port can already handle big ro-ro vessels.
“We can now also park ro-ro car vessels,” he said, adding, “The big ro-ro ships can park here as the terminal has been established for containers over 6,000TEUs.”
In order to operate in the Free Trade Zone at Qinzhou Port companies need permission from both the Customs department and the China Inspection and Quarantine department. But by closely cooperating with the port, Qinzhou’s bonded checkpoint services will reduce the complex steps of custom clearance thereby increasing the efficiency of custom clearance and decreasing costs for finished vehicle imports.
Once vehicles are imported into the area there is then only a single tax, according to Huang.
The port of Qinzhou is in the Beibu Gulf Economic Zone in southern China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, which due to its proximity with South East Asian nations is now heralded as a major free trade zone.
 “The open port called Qinzhou in Guangxi province is near Vietnam and South Asian countries in the ASEAN – China economic development zone–that is why opening Qinzhou port was announced earlier this year as it makes for smooth cargo trading,” said Owen Xie, deputy managing director and general manager of the Automobile Logistics Division at NYK Logistics China.
The freetrade zone covers 42,500km2 and consists of six cities: Nanning, Beihai, Qinzhou, Fangchenggang, Chongzuo and Yulin. Together the cities have a population of more than 12m.
The three main ports in the free trade zone: Qinzhou, Beihai and Fangchenggang together have handling capacity 100 million tons. By 2020 this is to be ramped up to 300 million tons.
Various bonded logistics centres lie within the economic zone, including the Nanning Bonded Logistics Centre, and for full vehicles, the bonded centre in Qinzhou Port area.
With tariffs reduced between ASEAN countries and China vehicle imports via Qinzhou port will be cost effective, encouraging vehicle production in ASEAN countries.
The average tariff on goods from ASEAN countries in to China is down to 0.1% from 9.8%. By 2015 the policy of zero-tariff rate for 90% of Chinese goods is expected to extend to the four new ASEAN members: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.