China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company (COSCO), China's leading shipping company, will become a long-term partner of the country's largest oil importer -- China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec).
The two giant companies signed a contract yesterday under which COSCO will be responsible for shipping imported oil for Sinopec, also China's largest oil producer and supplier.
According to the terms of the contract, COSCO will import 6 million tons of oil this year, with an aim to increase that to 30 million tons in the next few years.
Economic observers said the contract indicates progress in China's independence in transporting imported oil, which will be of great importance to ensuring the security of long-distance oil transport.
For years, China has depended mainly on Japanese and South Korean companies in shipping its imported oil.
The increase in demand for oil in China has meant an increase in oil imports in recent years. To meet the demand, China has had to establish a domestic shipping fleet to secure the safety of imported oil transport.
Wei Jiafu, president of COSCO, said the two companies also agreed to cooperate in oil supply and strengthen cooperation in the fuel market to ensure enough fuel supply for COSCO's fleet.
Founded in 1961, COSCO now operates a variety of merchant vessels and boasts a fleet of some 600 ships, the world's second largest.
In 2005, COSCO transported over 300 million tons of cargo for its domestic and overseas clients, making profits of 20 billion yuan (US$2.5 billion).
(Xinhua News Agency February 9, 2006)