THE completion of the Three Gorges project will reduce transport costs for vessels between Yichang and Chongqing by about 35 per cent, says a Chinese official. Hu Bei Water Conservancy Institution vice-standing director and senior engineer Wang Jiazhu said the current navigation cost was two to four times that at the middle and lower reaches of the river and 40 per cent more than the cost of rail transport. ''Once the Three Gorges project is completed, with the reservoir's backwater extended to Chongqing during dry seasons, the water level at the dam site will be raised 80 to 110 metres and five to 15 metres at Chongqing during dry seasons,'' he said. Mr Wang, who was speaking at a one-day symposium on navigation development of the Yangtze River, said the submerged shoals and rapids, the gentle slopes, the reduced velocities, and the deepened and widened ship pass would allow 10,000-ton vessels to pass directly to Jiulongpo port in Chongqing. He said the navigable pass between Yichang and Chongqing would currently allow vessels of only 3,000 tons. Damage and accidents would be reduced and the efficiency of vessel transport would be increased when the dam project was ready, Mr Wang said.