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New rules: Traffic lanes set for ships in Yangtze
By Bao Xinyan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-22 02:21

For hundreds of years, vessels large and small have sailed along the current on either side of the Yangtze River when going downstream but looking for the path of least resistance when going upstream.

Before long, however, all vessels will have to deal with new traffic rules that go against many old habits.

Following international norms, all vessels will have to navigate on the right, just as vehicles do on roads in many countries.

Two lanes of traffic will be set up in either direction, upstream and downstream, one along the bank for small vessels and the other along the main stream for large vessels.

The rules have been tried along a section of the river in East China's Jiangsu Province with successful results.

The number of ship accidents greatly decreased in the year following the implementation of the new routing system, which is the first of its kind in the country.

The regulations will also be adopted for the Pearl River in South China, said Chen Wei, an official from the Jiangsu Maritime Safety Administration.

The Jiangsu Maritime Safety Administration and its branches are responsible for the enforcement of these regulations.

By June this year, a year after the rules were implemented in a pilot project, the Jiangsu Maritime Safety Administration recorded 61 ordinary accidents on the Yangtze River, 33 per cent less than the previous year.

Among them, there were 29 collisions, a 40 per cent reduction.

Altogether 64 people died or disappeared and 54 ships sank in the accidents, a reduction of 17 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.

Economic losses caused by the accidents totalled 37.7 million yuan (US$4.5 million), a cut of 18.7 per cent.

"Based on the ship flow rate, it is the first time we have had an accident rate lower than one per 10,000," Zhang said proudly.

Small-ship sailors said they would no longer worry about safety since they would have their own routes.

Crews from large ships were equally positive, saying they could sail at high speed day and night along their routes."

Zhang also said the regulations helped guarantee efficiency of ports and shipping companies.

Statistics show that during the same year, ports along the Jiangsu section of the Yangtze River handled up to 310 million tons of cargo, an increase of 20 per cent from the previous year.

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