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China looks to waterways

A mix of state-sponsored incentives, commercial enterprise and technological innovation is resulting in more general cargo and containers being shipped on river vessels/barges in China

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Since May, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has been granted the authority to subsidise projects that benefit the environment and, specifically, improve infrastructure and connectivity between the river and other transport modes.

WorldCargo News understands that NDRC can award so-called green subsidies up to the value of RMB100M (US$14.5M) to support new projects or projects currently in the planning stages, rather than those nearing completion. Geographically, the Commission will target programmes in the less developed areas of China’s interior, including in provinces such as Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan, Chongqing, Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan. The subsidy programme extends until end-2020.

Increasingly, private and state-controlled shipping companies are reviewing their operations with a view to cutting costs, reducing transit times and improving schedule reliability. Making progress on all of these fronts on the main corridors is crucial if river services are to attract cargo from the highways. They also meet the central government’s objective of promoting more environmentally friendly and sustainable freight transport.


Ports are getting on board. Shanghai International Port Group and Sichuan Yibin Port Group (southwest Sichuan Province) recently collaborated on the launch of a fast ship service between the two ports. A 350 TEU capacity vessel now completes the voyage in 12 days. This compares with a transit time of 20 days previously.

Meanwhile, considerable research is taking place into the use of automated vessels on China’s rivers. Zhuhai Yunzhou Intelligence Technology (ZYIT), which owns iCloudnav and is a leader in this field, has joined up with Zhuhai Port Shipping (ZPS), with a view to installing and testing various technologies and systems on that company’s vessels.


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