Spend On China's Infrastucture Boosts Yangtze Traffic Volumes

Statistics released by the Yangtze River Administration of the Chinese Ministry of Transport show that increased investment in transport infrastructure in China's interior has halted the recent sharp declines in cargo throughput at ports along the Yangtze River.

In January 2009, the major ports along the Yangtze trunk-line reported a year-on-year cargo throughput increase of 5.7% to 80 million tons, the first monthly rise since August 2008. Container throughput increased 19.6% to 550,000 teu.

According to the administration's statistics cargo throughput reached 1.15 billion tons in 2008, up 9.2% year-on-year. However, there was a marked fall-off in activity towards the end of the year due to the impact of the worldwide economic downturn. Throughput increased by 14% during the first nine months, followed by zero growth in September, and falls of 17% in October, 21% in November and 30% in December.

Higher levels of government spending to construct railways, roads, bridges and metros are driving the demand for imported iron ore and construction steel, two of the major commodities shipped on the Yangtze. And projects to improve shipping conditions on the Yangtze are also making the river a more viable mode of freight transport, according to Tang Guanjun the newly appointed director of the Yangtze River Administration.

The single largest commodity shipped on the Yangtze, iron ore, accounted for more than 20% of the total cargo throughput in 2008, increasing 4.7% year-on-year to 210 million tons. Iron ore throughput grew 22% in the first half of the year, before slowing in the third quarter and falling by 17% in October, 28% in November and 38% in December. Coal and building materials, the second and third largest commodities shipped on the Yangtze, followed a similar pattern. Throughput of all the leading three commodities combined reached 557 million tons last year, and accounted for nearly 55% of the general cargo total.

Similarly, container throughput during the first nine months grew by nearly 31% but the pace slowed to 20% in October, 8% in November, and 14% in December. Over the whole year, throughput increased 25% to 6.92 million teu, compared with 38% in 2007.

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