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Vessel Standardisation

Vessel sizes on the Yangtze are increasing rapidly, although the average size is still low by international standards. By the end of 2006, there were 118,000 vessels sailing along the Yangtze River network, which includes its many tributatries. They had a combined total capacity of 39.65m dwt, giving an average size of just just 314 dwt per vessel.

If those vessels that sail along the Yangtze’s tributaries – where water levels are generally lower than in the Yangtze trunkline –are excluded, the average size rises to 750 dwt. But even this is still much smaller than the vessels that sail on the Mississippi, for example.

In 2000, the Ministry of Communications (now the Ministry of Transport) began rolling out a long-term programme to standardise all vessels on rivers across China. The aim is to encourage the deployment of larger, more modern and specialised vessels. One year later, it issued a new regulation governing the age of vessels allowed on inland rivers, effectively withdrawing old vessels from service on a compulsory basis and subjecting ageing vessels to inspections. For example, cargo vessels are subject to inspections after 24 years and will be withdrawn after 30 years. In 2003, the ministry issued circulars that categorically banned oar-carrying motorboats, vessels made out of cement and wood, and any newly built or renovated but non-standard vessel of any kind from entering the upper river.

More information on the vessel standardisation programme can be found in Chapter 3 of Yangtze Transport 2008.
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