China to begin preparation for huge new offshore port

China's commercial center finally has what it has long coveted, a deep-water port. Shanghai was to launch operations Saturday at the Yangshan port, a mammoth facility more than 30 kilometers (20 miles) offshore in the East China Sea. The 100 billion yuan (US$12 billion; Ђ9.6 billion) port, constructed on offshore islands and linked by a 32.5 kilometer (20-mile) bridge to the mainland, is expected to eventually have an annual handling capacity of 20 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of containers.

It is meant to handle China's soaring cargo handling demand, which is expected to rise by more than 50 percent over the next five years. Last year, Shanghai was third worldwide in handling shipping containers, with 11 million TEUs, behind Hong Kong, with more than 20 million TEUs, and Singapore, with about 19 million TEUs.

Waters near Yangshan average 15 meters (50 feet) deep, making it well suited for a sea port. Construction of the US$1.8 billion (Ђ1.5 billion) first phase of the project brings into operation a 1.6 kilometer (1 mile)-long hydraulic dock. Land reclamation, reinforcement of the foundations for the port and dredging of navigable channels have also been completed.

The port's final phase of construction is due to be completed in 2020. Although Shanghai's name literally means "on the sea," the main part of the city sits inland, on the banks of the Huangpu River, which runs into the mighty Yangtze just to the north. Heavy silting in the Yangtze Delta region has long prevented it from serving as a deep-water port.

The Yangshan port is one of several mega-projects, including bridges and tunnels to nearby islands and other areas, that city authorities are hoping will also become major tourist attractions. The city built the first phase of the project without foreign investment, reports the AP. N.U.

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