地缘贸易博客This blog considers how ideas and events framed by geography and trade shape our world, while sharing observations and analysis on discovery, transport, industry and much more.






Wednesday, 13 February 2013

China and US Shipping in the Inland Riverways in 21st Century

Yangtze River 长江, one of China's most important riverways



China has just expanded Yangtze River 长江 shipping capacity 

The shipping capacity of the Yangtze River 长江, China's longest river, has just been vastly expanded as a result of a decade-long effort to dredge and deepen the river. The river's main course whose shipping volume has just reached 1.78 billion tonnes in 2012,  four times the amount of 2003, has had an average annual growth rate of 10pc. 

Map of China's main riverways with Yangtze River 长江 below 
and Yellow River 黄河 above 
 
The revamped riverway now allows heavier ships to reach the upstream city of Chongqing 重庆, even during periods of dry weather. Furthermore, the depth of the river's 370-km Chongqing-Yibin stretch has been increased to 2.7 meters from the original 1.8 meters. Heavier ships will now be able to sail on the middle reaches of the river located between the cities of Yichang 宜昌 and Wuhan 武汉 in central China's Hubei Province. Heavy vessels will also be able to cruise on a downstream section of the river located in east China's Jiangsu Province.

But in the US...  

In New Orleans, the industrial Canal Lock connects two of America’s highest-tonnage waterways: the Mississippi River which handles more than 6,000 ocean vessels, 150,000 barges and 500m tonnes of cargo each year, as well as much of its grain, corn and soyabean production and the Gulf Intra-coastal Riverway, which runs from refinery-rich south-eastern Texas to Florida. Ships pass from one to the other via a lock that was built in 1921. Its replacement was authorised in 1956. Construction on the replacement was authorised in 1998, and then stalled by lawsuits. The most optimistic predictions of the Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains America’s inland riverways, see the new lock being completed in 2030.

Map of the inland Riverways in the Mississippi River Basin

As shipping to and from the US increases, so too will the use of these inland riverways, which are in most cases desperately in need of an upgrade.The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that underinvestment in the US' inland waterways cost American businesses $33 billion in 2010, and that without significantly increased investment those costs could rise to $49 billion (in constant dollars) by 2020.




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