Bao Qifan, a former blue-collar cargo handler, has spent the last two decades inventing and perfecting cargo handling technologies.
Bao Qifan (right) at the Waigaoqiao Port of Shanghai. [File photo]
He has been nicknamed the "Cargo-Handling King." All together, he has invented some 140 technologies, winning several awards in international invention exhibitions.
In 1981, Bao saw three young workers killed by falling cargo. After witnessing the tragedy, he felt an urge to stop further calamities.
At that time, he knew nothing about cargo handling, so he spent every day making experiments and reading books. Three years later, with the help of his colleagues, Bao invented a system to handle wood packaging. His system more than doubled the efficiency of local workers.
When the wood handling system proved successful, Bao turned to the handling of pig iron. Two decades ago, handling pig iron was a tough job. Every worker would become covered in black dust and the only thing you could see were the whites of their eyes. With Bao's inventions, working conditions improved greatly.
Today, Bao's inventions are used in more than 1,000 Chinese enterprises and more than 20 countries and regions in the world, yielding a total return of some 400 million yuan (US$61 million).
In 1996, Bao became the manager of Longwu Port in Shanghai. The port's business was slow because of its location six hours away from the East China Sea. To attract more business, Bao began to study the feasibility of domestic container transportation. In December 1996, Longwu Port opened China's first domestic container route. By 2005, the port's cargo traffic increased from 2.5 million tons to 21.77 million tons.
In 2003, Bao started to study automated port operation. He conducted investigations and studied advanced technologies in world-class ports such as Rotterdam, Netherlands, and Hamburg, Germany. Bao's innovations in port automation have now been applied to Shanghai's Waigaoqiao Port. If you have a chance to visit the port, you will find no human cargo handlers there. All handling is done by machines and operation orders are issued from a control center two kilometers away.
For his efforts in automation Bao won a golden award at the Paris International Concours Lépine. After that, he won three more golden awards at the fair, setting a record in its 105-year history.
In 1981, when he achieved the first success in inventing, Bao created a rule: All awards should be shared by the invention team and Bao's own share is given to fellow workers in need.
Bao has kept his word ever since. In 2005, one of his inventions won a 200,000-yuan (US$30,863) award. 180,000 yuan was shared by Bao's fellow team members and Bao gave his own share of 20,000 yuan to two paralyzed workers.
"I'm not a born inventor. I just concentrate on my work and take small steps," Bao said. "Frankly speaking, I'm not impressed by the awards. I just want to save my fellow men from dangerous working conditions."