Rule of the river: Stay right
( 2003-11-10 22:49) (China Daily)
Starting next year, boats sailing the 369.7-kilometre-long Yangtze River within the Three Gorges reservoir basin will have to stay to the right.
Authorities believe moving the nautical traffic to one side along the river in Central China's Hubei Province will maintain a better pace and promote productivity.
Hong Shanxiang, vice-minister of communications, says the revolutionary change in sailing rules will greatly enhance the transport capacity of the upper reaches of Yangtze by bringing about "increasing speed and enhancing safety.''
The move was announced yesterday here in Southwest China's biggest city, which is striving to become the country's one major inland river transport hub by year 2020. It wants to form that reputation on two pillars: business and tourism.
The upper reaches of Yangtze River within Southwest China's Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality have long been known as some of the most dangerous in the country because of the rocks and tricky currents.
Harsh natural conditions, in addition to backward ship conditions, have fostered rules that go back hundreds of years in which boats sail the lower reaches to go with the main currents. Those going to the upper reaches seek and go against the slower currents.
This means a ship sailing on the river has to always watch out for other boats, and at any time in seeking proper currents can forfeit speed or efficiency, said Lu Guoji, chairman of the Minsheng Shipping Co. Ltd.
Lu called the coming new sailing rule "the best way to fully exploit the improved sailing conditions of the Yangtze.''
According to him, after the water in the reservoir filled up to 135 metres this June, the Yangtze waterway obviously expanded and many originally dangerous rocks became less of a threat in deepened water.
Yet more days of thick fog have been a problem, and have always been a great fear among sailors on the Yangtze.
"But if all boats can stick to their right according to the new rules, fog will not be a fear anymore," said Lu..
He expects the river can make a real rival against road and railways as a booming transport artery for the booming economy of Southwest China.
Before the implementation of the new rule, the State Maritime Safety Administration under the Ministry of Communications tried a pilot project in the reservoir's Hubei area beginning October 1.
"The pilot project had a remarkable zero record of accidents in the area,'' said Hong.
In preparation for the new rule, the administration plans to inject over 40 million yuan (US$4.8 million) to upgrade the sailing signals along the way.
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