Beijing to invest HK$245b in rivers
In the next 20 years, Beijing will spend more than 200 billion yuan (HK$245 billion) upgrading river transport infrastructure as it seeks to boost domestic trade amid weakening export demand from the West.
'With the intensifying debt problems in Europe and the US, the current shipping situation is very severe, which necessitates accelerating the change in the direction of our shipping sector,' said Deputy Transport Minister Xu Zuyuan. 'Expanding river transport is a major theme in this acceleration.'
For the 12th five-year plan to 2015, Beijing had prepared a 45 billion yuan fund to expand waterways and invest in river ports in central and western regions, Xu said. Five billion yuan was also set aside to standardise river shipping, Xu said.
'Investing 45 billion yuan in waterways will lighten the burden on roads. For example, when ships can't pass through the Xi River [in Guangdong] in the dry season, the roads get congested,' said Xu. He called on local governments to increase their investments in waterways.
Hunan's government this month launched a 170 billion yuan plan to invest in expanding the landlocked province's river infrastructure over the next 20 years. To build waterways and ports, Hunan has budgeted 68 billion yuan for the next 10 years and 102 billion yuan for the following decade. Of the planned 170 billion yuan of investment, 132.7 billion yuan will be injected into waterways, including the Yangtze River and Xiang River, while 34 billion yuan will be invested in ports such as Yueyang and Changsha, the provincial capital.
On November 23, Shandong province published its plan to accelerate river transport, under which 14 billion yuan will be invested by 2015. The northeastern province plans to renovate and build 350 kilometres of waterways to increase Shandong's navigable waterways to 1,500 kilometres by 2015, with throughput capacity exceeding 70 million tonnes and shipping capacity reaching 8.8 million deadweight tonnes. Shandong plans to complete a network of waterways linking the Pacific Ocean with rivers by 2020. This includes expanding the capacity of the Grand Canal from Hangzhou to Beijing to accommodate 2,000-tonne ships.
'China has invested a lot in roads and bridges, but investment in rivers has been low. Developing river transport is necessary as it offers lower transport costs,' said Li Zhongjie, logistics director of Wuhan International Container Transshipment Company. Transporting goods along the Yangtze River is at least 50 per cent cheaper than roads, said Li. 'Rivers have the advantage of greater transport capacity than road and rail, but road transport is faster than by river.'
On October 27, Gansu province announced plans to construct 654 kilometres of waterways to extend the landlocked province's navigable waterways to 1,010 kilometres by 2015, and to further extend them to 1,346 kilometres by 2020.
But Peter Bosshard, policy director of International Rivers, warned against the waterways drive, saying they would make floods more powerful. He said China should learn from Europe's experience of floods.
Exports to Europe and the US comprise this percentage of China's total exports. Exports to the EU fell 9 per cent in October