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Water Transport

Water transport in China

By ships or other means, water transport including inland waterway transport and marine transport is mainly on the rivers, lakes, reservoirs, man-made channels and seas.

From the Estuary of the Yalu River in the north to the Beilunhe Estuary in the south, China owns about 30 thousand kilometers (18,641 miles) of coastline together with the islands off the coast, so the geographical conditions for water transport are favorable. With Shanghai, the third largest coastal harbor in the world and the largest in China, as the leading port, Dalian, Qinhuangdao, Tianjin (the largest port in north China), Yantai, Qingdao, Lianyungang, Nantong, Ningbo, Wenzhou, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Guangzhou, Zhanjiang, Beihai and many other small ports are distributed along the east coast with 738 quay berths altogether, among which there are 284 deep water berths which can cater for shipping of over 10 thousand-tons.

Furthermore, there are more than 5,800 large and small natural rivers in China, with a total length of over 400 thousand kilometers (248,548 miles), of which over 100 thousand kilometers are waterways (62,137 miles) and more than 70 thousand kilometers (43,496 miles) are navigable. Besides, over 900 navigable big and small lakes are distributed in densely populated and economically developed areas.

 Six Inland Trunk Waterways in China

Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal: a man-made canal, it is the longest and earliest built in the world. It plays an important role in the movement of goods and materials between north and south China. Along it, there are many attractive cities like Wuxi, Suzhou, Yangzhou and Hangzhou.


Yangtze River: enjoying the fame as the 'Golden Water Course', its navigable length reaches up to about 70 thousand kilometers (43,496 miles). Along the Yangtze there are many ports like Chongqing, Yichang, Shashi, Chenglingji, Wuhan, Huangshi, Jiujiang, Anqing, Wuhu, Nanjing and Shanghai. Additionally, lots of famous scenic spots can be enjoyed along the Yangtze River such as the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River, Shibaozhai, Baidi City, the Zhang Fei Temple, the Dazu Rock Carving, Ghost City , the Three Little Gorges, and so on.


Pearl River: second to the Yangtze River on the water transport, it is centered at Guangzhou and the Xijiang River is the main inland trunk waterway off it.


Huai River: is the dividing line between South and North China; it has been an important navigable river ever since ancient times. It flows through Henan, Hubei, Anhui, Jiangsu, and Shandong Provinces, so there are many attractive places along it like Mt. Huangshan of Anhui, the Yellow Crane Tower of Hubei and the Mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen of Jiangsu.


The Amur River (Heilongjiang River) and Songhua River: the navigable length is about 2,200 kilometers (1367 miles), of which the Songhua River, the biggest branch of Heilongjiang River, takes up 1,500 kilometers (932 miles). Although they remain frozen five to six months per year, there is a special means of transport - ice transport.


Although the Yellow River is the 'Mother River' and the second largest river of China, its value as a navigable river is much smaller than that of the Yangtze River and Pearl River. While, being the birthplaces of the Chinese civilization, there are lots of attractive spots worth visiting along it like Jiuzhaigou of Sichuan, the Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves of Gansu, the Museum of Qin Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses & Mt. Huashan of Shaanxi as well as the Hukou Waterfalls of Shanxi.


Besides domestic waterways, over 90 foreign going routes starting from Shanghai, Dalian, Tianjin, Qinhuangdao, Guangzhou and Zhanjiang have been developed, and connect China with over 150 Asian, African, European, American and Oceania countries.