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Crew shortages hinder Yangtze development

5 November 2014
The poor pay, hard work and unsociable hours involved in working on Yangtze vessels is presenting a serious challenge to China’s ambition to develop a new economic belt along the river by further increasing its traffic capacity, according to a Shanghai Daily article.

Chen Shaoyuan, captain of the Yangtze River cargo boat “An Xiang”, said being a mariner is now the “worst choice” for young job-seekers. He said crew members earn just Rmb2,000-3,000 a month and eat meat only once or twice a week. “Young people won't come if they have any other options,” Chen said.

Shipments along the Yangtze’s upper and middle reaches are expected to surge over the next few years, said He Shengping, president of Chongqing shipping exchange. “The labour shortage will become more acute by then.”

Excess capacity and China’s economic slowdown have hit profits in the domestic shipping sector, which means shipping lines cannot afford to offer competitive wages.

In Chongqing, an auto mechanic can earn as much Rmb6,000 a month, nearly double that of a ship maintenance worker. A 2013 survey conducted by Chongqing shipping exchange showed that 63 per cent of shipping companies in the municipality believed a lack of ship workers was a major barrier to expanding operations.

“We couldn't find local workers, so we went to less developed areas, such as Guizhou and Yunnan provinces,” said Du Yongchun, deputy general manager of Chongqing Chuanjiang Shipping.

Another company in the city recruited more than 100 crew members in 2012, 70 per cent of whom had left within a year, according to an unnamed executive.

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