The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is likely to establish a port services network in Zhejiang as the regional grouping has seen a rapid increase in port throughputs.
The APEC's 17-member economies agree the group's ports used for the transport of containers, oil and ore, faces problems of "uneven development among ports, fierce competition, and lack of cooperation".
In 2005, of 18 world ports with a cargo throughput of more than 100 million tons, 15 were located in the APEC region; and 16 of the top 20 container ports were also located in the region.
But many of the region's countries have poorly facilitated ports, unable to share in the boom of the industry.
"The unbalanced development pattern of ports in the region is similar to the economic development of the region," said Weng Mengyong, vice-minister of communications.
"There is an urgent need to improve the services and efficiency of the ports through strengthening cooperation," he said.
President Hu Jintao proposed the setting up of the port services network at the 14th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Hanoi last November. The proposal received strong support.
At a recent symposium, member nations discussed and reached consensus on the guiding principles, major functions, and the mechanism of establishing such a network.
Julie Nelson, deputy administrator of the United States Maritime Administration, applauded the proposal, calling it "important" to all APEC member economies.
"The gathering of all nations in the APEC region will allow us to come to consensus on where we are going in the future," she told China Daily.
"If we can reach consensus on the amount of trade that may occur and figure out what the future pattern is going to be, then individual ports can prepare their infrastructure better," she said.
Zou Bin, deputy director of the water transport department of the Ministry of Communications, said the port service network would strengthen cooperation between ports, in addition to providing a public information platform for discussions and agreements.
China's port industry is the fastest growing in the world. For four consecutive years, the cargo throughput of China's ports has been the largest in the world.
Official statistics show the total throughput of ports in China was 5.6 billion tons last year, with Shanghai topping the list.
(China Daily June 13, 2007)