By He Dan in Beijing and Zhou Lihua in Wuhan
BEIJING, July 22 (Xinhuanet) -- President Xi Jinping called for increased cooperation among Yangtze River ports to transform the region into a "golden water route", during a surprise visit to the Yangluo Container Port, in Wuhan New Port, on Sunday morning.
Photos showed him holding an umbrella, his trousers legs rolled up, during a downpour.
"We were not informed about President Xi's visit in advance, so our workers at the harbor were working as usual when he arrived," said Pu Jun, director of the publicity office of Wuhan Port Container Co Ltd in the Hubei provincial capital.
Pu said Xi was at the port for about half an hour, visiting the central control room and talking to the company general manager and a worker about logistics at the dock - even after his shirt got wet in the torrential rain.
Xi urged Wuhan New Port workers and officials to strengthen cooperation with other ports along the Yangtze River and build a "golden water route".
Wuhan New Port is made up of ports in four cities in Hubei - Wuhan, Ezhou, Huanggang and Xianning. Yangluo container port, a major harbor in Wuhan, handled more than 400,000 containers in the first half of 2013, an increase of more than 8.9 percent year-on-year, Xinhua News Agency reported.
In early 2011, the State Council, China's cabinet, issued guidelines for accelerating the development of inland navigation to build a modern inland water traffic system within 10 years that is smooth, efficient, safe and environmentally friendly.
Song Dexing, director of the Water Transportation Department of the Ministry of Transport, has said that inland navigation offers unprecedented opportunities for development, given the growing trend of industrial relocation from coastal areas to inland cities; the emphasis on urbanization; and the ongoing national "Go West" campaign.
Shou Jianmin, a Shanghai Maritime University professor who specializes in shipping and port research, said Xi's visit to Wuhan New Port shows that the central government is planning to let inland shipping along the Yangtze River play a more important role in driving the growth of local economies and boosting China's logistical and shipping capacity.
Shou said there are four pivotal Yangtze ports - Chong-qing, Wuhan, Nanjing and Shanghai. "The idea of developing the Yangtze River into a 'golden water route' requires efficient cooperation among the ports rather than vicious competition," he said.
Shou called for making a full-scale evaluation on the logistical situation of the Yangtze River, and he suggested the central government create a concrete blueprint for the river's development.
"Local ports would gain a clear idea of how to play their roles in the 'golden water route'," he said.
Zhou Dequan, deputy director of the shipping market research department at the Shanghai International Shipping Institute, said Wuhan New Port will face a lot of competition as it builds a port with a capacity of 100 million tons.
"After the global economic meltdown in 2008, a lot of local governments realized the great contribution that ports make to the economy, sparking a wave of port construction across the nation," Zhou said.
Zhou added that he has concerns about a potential oversupply behind the ambitious targets.
Xi also visited Wuhan Dong-hu High-tech Development Zone on Sunday and saw the latest developments in 3-D printing, optical fiber communication and biomass energy, Xinhua reported on its micro blog.
The zone is home to more than 2,000 registered companies with gross revenues of nearly 501 billion yuan ($81.6 billion) in 2012, Xinhua said.
Xi said a nation's prosperity relies on innovation, technology and talent, Xinhua reported.
(Source: China Daily)