Maritime Silk Road becomes wider by improved vessel design

Updated 2017-05-08 10:31:28 Xinhua

Two young Finnish dockers climbed onto a two-meter-high package of goods, connected more than 30 hooks to it, then jumped down, raising their hands as a sign that everything was in place.

A giant crane lifted the goods slowly and shifted them to the nearby cargo ship named Tian Le.

A Finnish worker aboard the ship then guided the crane to put the package in a vacant place. He pressed the button of a remote control in his hand. All the hooks were released at once.

It was the scene of cargo loading by Tian Le before it departed from the port of Kotka, southeastern Finland, and returned to China on May 3. It was packed with paper pulp boards as well as some wood cants made in Finland and to be shipped to China.

The multifunction vessel owned by China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) had come to Europe via the busy shipping route of the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. It unloaded three containers in Morocco, more than 14,000 tons of equipment and rolled steel in Belgium, over 2,000 tons of wind towers and leaves in the Netherlands, and over 1,800 tons of wind power equipment in Ireland, before it finally docked at two ports in Finland.

"In the past, our ships were quite often half-loaded or less than half-loaded when returning from Europe, but since last year, my ship has been almost fully loaded each time," said Captain Chen Fengzhong when embarking on the journey back to China.

Chen Feng, managing director of COSFIM, a joint venture of COSCO and Finnish logistics company John Nurminen Oy, told Xinhua that plenty of pulp produced in the Nordic countries has been popular in the Chinese market, but Chinese vessels were not involved in the pulp shipping until last year.

"Pulp boards are vulnerable to water, dust, collision and extrusion. The shipping of pulp boards requires food hygiene level of transport," said Chen Feng. As late as a few years ago, COSCO's customers still doubted the capacity of Chinese carriers for shipping pulp, he added.

The situation changed last year, when COSCO built eight multi-purpose cargo ships with the latest design. They were all titled with Tian, a Chinese word meaning the sky. For example, Tian Le boasts an open cargo bay of 25 meters wide and 150 meters long, adjustable partitions and four 100-ton heavy cranes, so that they are especially suitable for loading pulp.

In addition, COSCO is building three more cargo ships with a high level of performance in icy conditions, enabling the ships to adapt to the Baltic Sea even in the winter. The three vessels are scheduled to be put into use by the end of this year.

Chen Feng said that his Finnish customer, on knowing that COSCO obtains a new fleet of the latest designed cargo ships, agreed in March 2016 to sign a transportation agreement with the group for five and half years.

The ships titled with Tian have world leading dynamic power, hoisting facilities and navigation systems.

Since last summer, COSCO cargo ships have started to dock in Finland on a regular basis for loading pulp. It marks that the ocean shipping group has entered the field of maritime transport of pulp. The new contract attracted pulp manufacturers in other countries. Chen Feng said a Brazilian customer has made inquiry at COSCO.

"The Nordic region is a traditional source of pulp exports, and a large number of products are sold to China," said Chen Feng.

"Enlightened by the Belt and Road Initiative, we are more committed to the characteristics of the Nordic market and its supply of goods, and have built more suitable ships. It makes the maritime Silk Road wider than before," Chen Feng added.

Kevin Slater, chartering manager of COSFIM, said that the Chinese market and Finnish products have shared the common interest.

"I think Finland will benefit from the Belt and Road Initiative by helping us to expand Finnish market to the Chinese market, for COSFIM, that means handling the shipping transportation for these projects and cargos," said Slater.

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