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Waiting times soar at Three Gorges Dam

23 January 2013
The Yangtze River Administration under the Ministry of Transport has acknowledged for the first time that the five shiplocks at the Three Gorges Dam are operating at full capacity and that the long-term trend of an increasing number of vessels wanting to pass the shiplocks means even longer waiting times.

According to the report, the average time a vessel had to wait in 2012 at the nearby anchorage was 54.6 hours, up 159 per cent over the previous year.

Analysing operations in 2012, the report said that the total freight volume passing the shiplocks fell by 14.2 per cent to 86m tons and the number of vessels passing them fell by 20.4 per cent to 44,263. The decline was partly due to the fact that the Three Gorges and Gezhouba dam shiplocks underwent lengthy repair work during the year, and there were also a number of suspensions caused by bad weather. Although the proportion of 3,000dwt vessels increased to nearly half of all passing vessels, the full load rate of the vessels fell by 13 per cent to 58.7 per cent, leading to a utilisation rate of the shiplocks of 73 per cent, down 5.5 per cent over the previous year.

In a related development, Liu Ming, external relations manager at the Three Gorges Administration of Navigational Affairs, has called on barge operators to fill up their vessels. Writing in China Transport Newspaper, Ms Liu cited a recent example to back up her case. At 10.30am on 15 January, she said there were five large vessels in the No.3 chamber of the southern shiplocks designed for vessels travelling downstream and only one of them, the 2,200dwt Yuhang 803, was carrying cargo, totalling 1,800 tons; each of the other four vessels was empty. In the No.5 chamber, three vessels were carrying cargo and the other two were empty.

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