China a powerhouse of water transport with international influence: official

Large container vessels are docked at an automated terminal of Shanghai's Yangshan Deep Water Port, May 21, 2021. (Photo by Ji Haixin/People's Daily Online)

China has become a powerhouse of water transport with international influence and is embracing a new journey of water transport construction, Vice-Minister of Transport Zhao Chongjiu told a press conference on June 24.

Chinese ports handled 14.45 billion tonnes of cargo and 260 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) last year, outnumbering those by any other country in the world. Eight and seven of the world’s top 10 ports in terms of cargo throughput and container throughput were in China.

As of the end of 2020, the total transport capacity of Chinese cargo ships hit 310 million deadweight tonnes. The figure was the second highest in the world. China COSCO Shipping Corporation Limited and China Merchants Group are now the largest two comprehensive shipping enterprises of the world in terms of shipping capacity.

According to the vice minister, China has ranked the first in the world for years regarding the capacity of inland water transportation. Last year, over 3.8 billion tonnes of cargos were shipped through inland rivers across the country, and the total mileage of operational waterways had exceeded 120,000 kilometers by the end of the 2020, the longest in the world. The trunk line of the Yangtze River has become the world’s busiest water channel with the largest transportation capacity for years.

Zhao introduced that by 2020 China has built nine automated container terminals, and seven other are currently under construction. Besides, the country is also a leading designer and constructor  of automated container terminals, as well as a leading manufacturer of port machinery, he added.

Yi Jiyong, deputy head of the Water Transport Bureau under the Ministry of Transport disclosed that China will keep shoring up its weak spots in the infrastructure of inland water transportation. According to him, 5,000 kilometers of inland river channels will be improved or added to the country’s river transportation network, and 2,500 kilometers are expected to meet the standard of high-level channels.

Seafarers make a major part of the jobholders in the shipping industry. June 25 marked the Day of the Seafarer. Cao Desheng, director of the maritime affairs bureau of the Ministry of Transport introduced that the China’s seafarer group has been constantly expanded over the years. As of the end of 2020, there were a total of 1.7 million Chinese seafarers in service, the highest in the world, including 258,000 females. “Chinese seafarers make 130,000 overseas trips each year, which has laid a foundation for the global development of the Chinese shipping industry,” Cao said.