Two ships each carrying 150 tons of refined oil have arrived in
southwest China's Yunnan Province from neighboring Thailand via
the Mekong River. This marks the trial launch of China's oil
shipping program with its Southeast Asian partners.
Experts say the route will serve as an alternative to the Strait
of Malacca as a passage for shipping oil and assist ensure the oil
supply to Yunnan and southwest China.
The Mekong River rises on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and flows
through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to the
South China Sea. It's called Lancang River in China.
In March this year China signed a landmark agreement with Laos,
Myanmar and Thailand on refined oil shipping through the waterway.
But the agreement only allowed a monthly shipping quota of 1,200
tons of oil for safety reasons.
However, the three Southeast Asian nations later agreed to raise
the quota after China had set up an emergency response team to
ensure oil shipping safety on the river, said Qiao Xinmin, chief of
the provincial maritime affairs bureau on Thursday.
China would ship around 70,000 tons of refined oil each year
from Thailand alone via the Mekong River because of the rise in the
quota, Qiao said.
Experts estimated that a total of 200,000 tons of refined oil
would be shipped to Yunnan via the waterway when the quota was
scrapped. They added that the transportation cost per ton was 200
yuan (US$25.6) less than that by land.
Qiao said more than 20 experts from China, Laos, Myanmar and
Thailand were checking ports and oil shipping facilities along the
river and studying the feasibility of shipping larger amounts of
Officials from the four countries believe the program will help
boost transport cooperation on the Mekong. It opened to commercial
navigation 16 years ago.
The river has become a tourist route and major transport channel
for ore, produce and commodities between China and members of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations. In the past five years the
river has carried up to two million tons of goods and this
represented trade worth more than 10 billion yuan (US$1.28
billion), Qiao said.
(Xinhua News Agency December 29, 2006)