'Mother river' set to reap rewards of development

Updated:2017-02-23 09:53:19

Mother river

A container is unloaded at Guoyuan Port in Chongqing.[Photo/Xinhua]

  Editor's note: The Yangtze River economic belt covers 11 provinces and cities, such as Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Sichuan and Shanghai, with a total area of 2.05 million square kilometers. The belt also spans the country's eastern, middle and western regions, and the population and GDP within it account for more than 40 percent of the national totals. The economic belt is regarded as an important strategic area for the country's latest round of reform and development.

  The largest port in Chongqing, the biggest city on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, is planning to raise throughput by promoting intermodal transport and improving transshipment efficiency to take advantage of China's "mother river" and become a major international inland port.

  The southwestern municipality's Guoyuan Port, the "golden gateway" to the vast inland area, lies at the head of the river, while Shanghai lies at its tail.

  The port, connected to railways, water routes and roads, is located at the intersection of the trade route of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Yangtze River Economic Belt, which is under development.

  "The intermodal transport route connecting the Yangtze River and the railway is much cheaper than the previous 'classic' route," said Zhang Baohua, executive director of Chongqing Guoyuan Port Affairs Co, administered by the State Development and Investment Corp.

  According to Zhang, the port will operate as a hub for the shipment of ocean cargo to inland areas: "For example, foreign sea cargo can be carried along the river to Chongqing and transshipped to the western regions by train. Water transport is much cheaper than rail."

  Cost savings

  When Lanzhou, Gansu province, imports bauxite, the world's main source of aluminum, the classic route takes the 1,800-kilometer Lianyungang-Lanzhou railway.

  However, if the cargo were to be transported via the Yangtze River and transshippedmoved from one mode of transportation to anotherin Chongqing, the journey to Lanzhou would be just 800 km, providing huge cost savings, Zhang said. The Chongqing-Lanzhou railway, which is expected to open later this year, has been built to facilitate that move.

  A trunk line that opened in 2013 to connect the port with the national rail network has resulted in greatly increased throughput. Last year, the port handled 240,000 containers, 30,000 more than in 2015.

  Most of the port's additional traffic is transported by railway, according to Zhou Zhonglin, vice-manager of the business department at Chongqing Guoyuan Container Terminal Co.

  Last year, the port transferred 160,000 commercial vehicles. "The benefit of the railway is that we can transport commercial vehicles to the vast west (of China). Usually, these vehicles are transported to a hub and then distributed.

  "Thanks to Guoyuan Port, Chongqing has become a major transport hub for cars imported via Shanghai and distributed around the provinces of Guizhou, Yunnan and Sichuan," said Chen Cheng, deputy-general manager of Chongqing Jiangsheng Automobile Logistics Co, adding that another major port, Cuntan, transports domestically made cars to areas on the river's lower reaches.

  With investment of 10 billion yuan ($1.45 billion), Guoyuan Port has 16 berths and can handle 600,000 containers, 6 million metric tons of bulk cargo and 1 million commercial vehicles every year.

  Although the port began operations in 2013, it will not open fully until late this year, when it will have a designed annual throughput of 30 billion tons. Linked with the Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe International Railway, the port is currently a transfer hub for coal and iron ore from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and Gansu province.

  The port's authorities have already received enquiries from a number of potential customers, who are looking to exploit the advantages it will offer when fully functional.

  "Many customers in the northwestern region have approached us. We have to ask them to be a little more patient and wait for us to open fully," Zhang said.

  Traffic rising

  The plan to develop the economic belt aims to increase traffic and encourage intermodal transport on the waterway.

  In September, the central government issued a development blueprint that saw Chongqing lying within the belt and playing a leading role in the river's "green development".

  When developed, the belt will cover approximately 20 percent of China's landmass and will be home to about 40 percent of the population. It is expected to generate more than 40 percent of national GDP every year.

  According to the office leading the program, the plan emphasizes the promotion of intermodal transport to accelerate links between railways, water, road, rail and air transport.