Marine transport sector grows fast
China is becoming an increasingly important player in the global marine transport industry thanks to its booming port business and steady economic growth.
According to statistics with the Ministry of Communications, the number of containers handled annually by Chinese ports skyrocketed from 15.59 million in 1999 to 48 million in 2003.
China dealt with approximately one fourth of the containers in global marine transport last year.
Despite its fame for marine navigation inventions such as the compass, China started to lag behind Western countries since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) emperors adopted policies to lock out foreign trade and marine transport.
In order to better adapt Chinese ports to the country's fast economic growth and development of foreign trade, China significantly increased its investment in port construction and automation and made itself an increasingly competitive player in the global marine transport industry, dominated by the United States and the European Union.
Huang Guosheng, a veteran port manager from the Guangzhou port in South China's Guangdong Province, said the booming port industry accurately indicates the country's robust performance in foreign trade.
In the first half of 2004, China's export and import totalled US$523 billion, up 39.1 per cent year-on-year. During the same period, the cargo handled by Chinese ports amounted to 1.568 billion tons, up 26.2 per cent compared to the same period last year, according to the ministry.
While China's port industry kept developing as a whole, a number of Chinese ports started to make astonishing appearances on the world stage.
In 2003, China's largest Shanghai port ranked third worldwide in cargo-handling quantities, next only to Hong Kong and Singapore. With the Yangshan Deep-Water port in Shanghai, the East China metropolis is now planning approximately 10-kilometre deep-water shoreline and 50 deep-water berths.
The Shanghai port is very likely to become the world largest trade port by 2020, according to a plan released by the Shanghai port administration.
At present, the Shenzhen Port, located in South China's Guangdong Province and boasting water more than 13 metres deep, is the second largest port on China's mainland and fourth worldwide.
The northern Tianjin port has set its eyes on the list of the top 10 ports worldwide in six years. The 144-year-old northern port handled 160 million tons of cargo last year and currently is the No 1 port in North China.
In fact, China's fast and steady economic growth has not only benefited the port industry but also contributed greatly to the country's ship building and repair businesses as well as finance, insurance and legal services related to marine transport.
China's shipping and marine transport industry is now in a golden growth phase hardly seen in centuries, said Li Kelin, president of the China Shipping (Group) Company.