All leading mainland container ports will be linked by electronic data interchange (EDI) within a year, according to Cosco (Hong Kong) Shipping Co managing director Du Baoming, quoting sources from the Ministry of Communications.
Speaking at the Asia Ports '98 conference, Mr Du said authorities had set up a trial EDI network.
No details were available, but a shipper said the trial network was at Shanghai port.
The EDI link will mean all mainland ports will be able to work closely with shipping lines, provide faster cargo customs clearance, eliminate much paperwork and improve communications.
Mr Du said cargo handling systems at ports such as Dalian, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Qinghuangdao and Tianjin had become more sophisticated and were of international standard.
'There are 65 special container berths, 134 container bridges and 304 gantry cranes installed at major ports,' he said.
Since the early 1990s, the port administration had undergone significant streamlining, including a new port management committee, standardisation of fees collection, simplified inspection procedures and raising of professionalism of port administration staff.
Mr Du said the first port law, which was under review by the National People's Congress, would lift port administration to a new level.
The average growth rate of import and export cargoes handled at mainland ports between 1978 and 1997 was about 13.7 per cent.
Mr Du said port development and the competition among ports had accelerated the development of the merchant fleet.
According to Beijing's Ninth Five-Year Plan, the mainland is to build more bulk cargo berths with the capacity to handle 200,000 tonnes or above by the turn of the century, prompting shipping companies to buy larger tonnage.
Lines were further attracted by port operators' attempts to win more clients by upgrading facilities, reducing fees and charges while improving port efficiency, Mr Du said.
Faster turnaround times, cuts in operation costs and better choice of ports enhanced the competitiveness of shipping lines, he said.
Mr Du said the global shipping centre would shift from the West to the East in the new century due to the rapid development of the industry in Asia, especially the container sector, adding that Asian companies either owned or controlled about 40 per cent of the world fleet.
By 2000, Asian ports' container throughput would be 188 million teu (20 ft equivalent units), or 51.6 per cent of the world total.
Mr Du predicted that Shanghai would become an international shipping centre in the new century while Tianjin, Qingdao and Dalian would follow Hong Kong to become important hub ports.
BOOST FOR EFFICIENCY Trial system operating in Shanghai Likely to allow faster customs clearance Will eliminate paperwork and boost communications between mainland ports