‘Clean island’ falls into port expansion crosshairs
Suggestions that Yangshan may not be able to handle ULCCs of the future is seeing port planners looking around for alternatives.
Hengsha Island is just off the coast of Shanghai at the mouth of the Yangtze River where it flows into the East China Sea.
Considering the Yangtze is one of most heavily polluted waterways in China that oozes past many intense industrial manufacturing areas, the most incredible attributes of Hengsha Island are that it possesses clear air, clean water and looks like a tropical paradise. The 11,000 inhabitants even refer to it as “clean island”.
It is increasingly rare to find such pearls along China’s coast, areas that have miraculously managed to escape breakneck industrial development and the chronic pollution that always accompanies it. Especially considering the island is so close to Shanghai, a city perpetually shrouded in a smoggy haze.
So in order to preserve this treasure for future generations, a haven from the frenetic and choking city, the former president of the Shanghai Port Group is proposing that Hengsha Island be the location for … a new container terminal.
Seriously. The port boss is now president of the transport department at a Shanghai university and believes that the deep water at Hengsha Island and its access to the East China Sea make it the ideal location for an extension of the city’s container handling facilities.
Let’s leave for now the fact that a container terminal will be a step towards destroying one of the few treasures left in Shanghai, not counting the octogenarian jazz band at the Peace Hotel.
Because we thought that Yangshan Deepwater Port, built across two islands at the end of a 32km bridge from the mainland and opened in May 2006, would accommodate the expansion needs of the city’s terminals. By 2015 it is supposed to have more than 30 berths and once Phase 4 is complete the target is to reach a throughput of 15 million TEUs by 2020. So why does Shanghai need a new container terminal at some island on the other side of town?
Well, it turns out that Yangshan is running into trouble. Cargonews Asia has reported that the port’s ambitions may be curtailed by limits to its coastline and a constant build up of sediment that affects draft. The arrival of 18,000 TEU ships will challenge its facilities. At the moment only Maersk is going that big but other lines could easily follow once they see how the economies of scale pan out.
So instead of Yangshan being the solution to all of Shanghai’s future container handling requirements, it appears to be more of a limiting factor.
After building a bridge straight out to sea and lopping the tops off two islands to reclaim a giant port out of the ocean, who would have thought that just six years later it would not be enough.
If the Hengsha Island container terminal goes ahead, besides messing up a beautiful island it could also lead to the displacing of many inhabitants as the island transforms itself from a tourist paradise in to a port-serving logistics zone.
In a delightful touch of irony, the community on adjacent Chongming Island comprises people displaced by the Three Gorges Dam project. Maybe they could take in the Hengsha folks.