Yangtze River

Yangtze River Ports 2006 is an in-depth business book devoted to the Yangtze, which flows through several of China’s most important industrial cities–including Chongqing, Wuhan and Nanjing–before reaching Shanghai. It charts the fast-growing importance of the world’s third-longest river, whose traffic levels are growing at a rate of more than 25% a year. Cargo volumes more than doubled between 2001 and 2005, from 310mn tonnes to 795mn tonnes. Container throughput is booming and leading ports such as Chongqing and Nanjing are investing heavily to increase their capacity and to improve efficiency.

In 2005, the Yangtze’s 24 leading ports, excluding Shanghai, recorded a throughput of 2.6mn TEU, 3.8 times more than in 2000. This trend is set to continue in the future. According to official forecasts, throughput will reach 6.5m TEU by 2010 and will exceed 10m TEU by 2020. These growth levels are partly a result of increased investment.

The Ministry of Communications has spent increased sums on areas such as dredging, vessel standardization and technology, while the ports themselves have been investing in infrastructure and improving their connections to the local road and rail networks. Foreign companies are increasingly visible, especially in port management and in the supply of technology and equipment. In addition, the raised water levels in much of the upper reaches of the river, due to the Three Gorges Dam, have eased navigation in what used to be a treacherous stretch for shipping characterized by shoals and rapids.

However, major challenges remain. For example, the locks of the Three Gorges Dam are a major bottleneck for shipping and the dam itself is creating new and uncharted patterns of silting further downstream. Add to this the 45 low bridges across the river and the shortage of funds available to improve port infrastructure and material handling equipment, and it is not surprising that the cargo-carrying potential of the river is considerably under-utilized.

At the moment, nearly 80% of shipping activities on the Yangtze are concentrated in the section between Shanghai and Nanjing, while less than 20% of the entire river’s navigable capacity is being exploited. Yangtze River Ports 2006 is a guide for shipping industry and logistics professionals, and a necessary tool for foreign manufacturers, enabling them to assess the potential benefits and pitfalls involved of moving their plants inland. The book analyses government plans and their impact, along with changes to the waterway, port infrastructure and investment rules that are transforming the nature of shipping on the Yangtze. Investment opportunities and challenges are analyzed in detail.

The Yangtze’s top 10 container-handling ports 2005

Port Throughput
(thousand TEU)
Growth over 2004 (%)
Nanjing 587.7 20
Zhangjiagang 377.1 15
Nantong 301.2 20
Taicang 250.9 156
Wuhan 178.0 27
Chongqing 170.1 15
Yangzhou 157.0 20
Changshu 110.0 51
Zhenjiang 98.4 29
Chenglingji 68.0