Yuehai Railway 1, the first Chinese-made train ferry, hit the water in Shanghai's Jiangnan Shipyard at the weekend, marking a milestone in the construction of the Yuehai Passage that will link Hainan and Guangdong provinces.
Hainan Province Vice-Governor Wu Changyuan said: "We Hainan people are eagerly looking forward to the operation of this carrier because it will link us with the mainland's railway network."
The 12.5-nautical-mile Qiongzhou Straits has been a bottleneck blocking the development of the island province but the ship will soon cross it in 50 minutes in all weathers but typhoons.
"It will be a big spur to the development of Hainan and the exploration of resources in the South China Sea," Wu said. "Its significance lies not just in its being an economic boost but also because it enhances our national defence as well."
The ferry is 165.4 meters with a tonnage of 13,400 tons and a carrying capacity of 4,080 tons. Its expected speed is 15 nautical miles per hour.
The boat can carry 40 cargo compartments each 14 meters long or 18 passenger compartments each measuring 26.5 meters long, together with 50 cars.
The ship is equipped with the most advanced anti-rocking facilities and has an automatic data recorder similar to a plane's black box. The ferry is able to counter sea waves of up to force 8.
The decor meets the standard of a three-star hotel and passengers can receive 10 television channels.
Gu Diquan, general manager of Jiangnan Shipyard, said: "It proves our capacity designing and making such sea-crossing ferry and we will make it and the second one perfect to serve Hainan Province."
The ferry is contractually due to arrive in Haikou on October 31.
The shipyard is expected to deliver the second ship in May next year.
Visitors or cargo to Hainan currently have to either fly to Sanya Airport or go to Zhanjiang in Guangdong Province and then transfer to small boats.
The two provinces and the Ministry of Railways decided during the 1980s to build the Yuehai (Guangdong-Hainan) Passage, which comprises two railways and the train ferry.
Work started in 1997, with investment of 4.5 billion yuan (US$542 million).
A 138-kilometre-long railway is under construction to connect Zhanjiang, where all trains from the north now stop, with Hai'an on the southern tip of the Leizhou Peninsula.
The 182-kilometre-long Chahai (Chahe-Haikou) railway on Hainan will take the trains directly to Sanya.
(China Daily July 29, 2002)