Global firms keen to hear pitch under plan to develop interior Mainland port authorities for the Yangtze River, the third-longest in the world, will invite investors to develop terminals involving investment of more than eight billion yuan. The pitch will be made to investors at a port conference in April. Global shipping firms such as Maersk and CMA CGM have confirmed they will send representatives to the conference, which will be held on April 12 at the Regal International Hotel in Shanghai. Officials from almost all ports along the river also will attend and offer projects at ports including Wuhan, Tongling, Jingjiang and Yibin. Wuhan Port will seek interest in the second phase expansion of Henyang container terminal and Yangluo Terminal's second phase with total investment of 1.4 billion yuan. Tongling Port, Jingjiang Port and Yibin Port will market their bulk and container terminal projects with total investment of 5.4 billion yuan. Stretching 6,300km, the Yangtze River starts in the Tibet-Qinghai plateau and runs through Sichuan, Chongqing, Yunnan, Hunan, Hubei and Jiangxi before reaching Shanghai. The Yangtze River project is part of the government's 'Go West' policy started in 2000 to develop 12 western provinces and cities, such as Chongqing, Yunnan, Sichuan, Tibet and Shaanxi. 'Few developments in China will have more impact than the Go West project on the world's economy,' said Zhang Tingting, China consultant for Alain Charles Publishing. To aid the Go West policy, the central government has earmarked 15.3 billion yuan to build transshipment and warehouse facilities in Nanjing, Wuhan and Chongqing, with construction work starting in 2005. However, some sections of the upstream Yangtze River are filled with shoals, making navigation dangerous. The Three Gorges Dam worsens the problem by prolonging the dry season in the middle part of the Yangtze River. Waterway officials studied a plan in 2004 to deepen the section between Shanghai and Nanjing by 2010, with a long-term aim of extending such work all the way to Chongqing. Meanwhile, increased investment in the western provinces has boosted demand for cargo transport along the river. Throughput growth at the upstream section, from Wuhan to Jingzhou, saw 100 per cent growth last year, four times the average growth of throughput for the whole river, according to data from Yangtze River Ports. However, Ms Zhang said investors tended to overlook opportunities upstream in their rush to downstream projects such as in Shanghai. About 16 per cent of shipments at the Shanghai Port originated from upstream areas, she said. 'That's why Shanghai Port Group has already invested 500 million yuan at nine ports along the river, the single largest port investor along the river,' Ms Zhang said.