The number of container units handled by mainland ports this year hit 100 million yesterday, highlighting the country's position as a major player in the industry worldwide.
A cargo ship full loaded with containers sails off Yichang port, Hubei Province, on November 3. To date, for every two containers traveling along shipping lines in the Pacific, one is from China.[newsphoto]
"China's container transportation has reached world levels both in handling efficiency and building networks, greatly contributing to the prosperous shipping industries of Northeast Asia and the world," Xu Zuyuan, vice-minister of communications, said yesterday at a ceremony in Tianjin Port held to celebrate the milestone.
To date, for every two containers traveling along shipping lines in the Pacific, one is from China. The country also manufactures 90 percent of the world's containers, he said.
"The contribution of the container industry to the global economy are no less than those of the Internet in modern times," Xu said.
To further build the country from a "large" ocean-shipping nation to a "strong" one, the government will invest more in areas such as innovation and policy implementation.
It will also continue to encourage more cooperation among ports and shipping companies, Xu said.
Although the development of China's container industry started at least 20 years later than those of developed countries, the throughput of cargo and containers at its ports has been the largest in the world for the past five years, with an annual growth rate of 35 percent.
The first overseas container reached China in September 1973 at Tianjin Port, which later set up the country's first container berth in 1980.
The 90s saw rapid growth in the container transportation industry, and in 2002 China overtook the United States to become the world's top handler of containers.
Last year, the country handled 5.6 billion tons of cargo and 93 million TEUs (20-foot container equivalent units). Twelve ports recorded cargo throughput of more than 100 million tons, with Shanghai handling 530 million tons, making it the world's busiest port.
Song Dexing, director of the ministry's water transport department, said water transportation accounts for more than 90 percent of foreign trade cargo delivery, including 95 percent of imported crude oil and 99 percent of imported iron ore.
"Containers are further connecting China's middle and western regions to the global market, under a rational ports distribution plan combining coastal areas and inner rivers," he said.
However, the country is still a long way from meeting the growing demand of its rapidly expanding economy, he said.
"The container industry must move away from traditional transportation and toward comprehensive logistics and service industries," Song said.