China building smart ports to bolster export-oriented economy
Updated: May 24, 2024 20:30 Xinhua

BEIJING, May 24 -- Automated container cranes and driverless transport vehicles are busy unloading and carrying containers at Tianjin Port in Tianjin Municipality, north China.

Smart port construction, which utilizes an array of technologies such as 5G, AI, autonomous driving, and cloud computing, has transformed Tianjin Port, helping to build it into the world's first intelligent zero-carbon terminal.

The intelligent container terminal involved an investment of 5.2 billion yuan (about 731 million U.S. dollars). The investment in smart container terminals is at the same level as that for traditional ones, but smart ports have higher efficiency, said Yang Jiemin, vice president of Tianjin Port Group.

The smart terminal increases the operating efficiency of a single gantry crane by more than 40 percent and reduces labor costs by 60 percent.

Tianjin Port is striving to become an upgraded green, smart, and hub port to help enhance the overall competitiveness of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei city cluster, said Chu Bin, chairman of Tianjin Port Group.

To help inland cities expand trade, Tianjin Port has launched rail-sea intermodal services and opened over 120 marketing outlets across the country, Chu said. Its shipping routes can reach more than 500 ports in over 180 countries and regions.

Over the past decade, Tianjin Port's container throughput has increased from 13 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) to 22 million TEUs, making it one of the world's ten busiest container ports.

Ningbo-Zhoushan Port, the world's busiest port in terms of cargo throughput, has also ridden on the wave of intelligent port building. The second phase project of the Meishan port area has increased the container handling capacity of the port's Meidong Container Terminal to 10 million TEUs.

The Meishan port area, particularly the second phase project, is a perfect model of how a traditional terminal has been upgraded to an automated one, said Peng Jie, deputy general manager of Ningbo Meidong Container Terminal Co., Ltd.

Ningbo-Zhoushan Port has served as a bridge between traders in its home province of Zhejiang and other parts of China and markets worldwide. By the end of 2023, it had over 250 international container routes, including 130 routes to Belt and Road partner countries.

Its rail-sea intermodal services cover 65 prefecture-level cities nationwide. A new railway service has more closely connected the port with the city of Yiwu, known as the "world's supermarket" for its enormous exports of small commodities.

The three major tech-intensive green products, namely, new energy vehicles, lithium-ion batteries, and photovoltaic products, are taking a larger share among the exported goods via Ningbo-Zhoushan Port.

The smart port construction has also steered Rizhao Port in Shandong Province, east China, to become the world's youngest port to have an annual cargo throughput of more than 500 million tonnes.

Rizhao Port, which opened in 1986, has a smart dry bulk terminal and a fully automated container terminal. It aims to transform itself from a single-function port operator to an integrated supply chain service provider and play a bigger role in supporting the country's development, said Huo Gaoyuan, chairman of Shandong Port Group Co., Ltd.

Rizhao Port has been developing its customer base in inland cities along the Yellow River and in central China regions and northwest China's Shaanxi Province, offering to serve as their sea gate and help them expand in overseas markets.

In recent years, China has been vigorously developing smart transport and logistics as it pushes to build world-class smart and green ports.

China has eight of the world's top 10 busiest ports in terms of cargo throughput and seven of the world's top 10 ports in terms of container throughput, according to the Ministry of Transport.

The country has 18 automated container terminals and 27 automated terminals under construction or renovation, Zheng Qingxiu, an official with the Ministry of Transport, said early this year.

China has been the world's largest trading country in goods for seven consecutive years. Ports are a key support for economic growth and connect a huge number of exporters with the markets, which is critical to China's economic vitality and resilience.

Intelligent port construction is a crucial guarantee for a safe and stable global supply chain and offers key support for the country's high-level opening-up, said Liu Zhanshan, vice president of the China Waterborne Transport Research Institute.

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