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Overcrowded Suzhou Creek becomes big barge gridlock

AUTHORITIES are trying to ease traffic on Suzhou Creek after record levels of congestion on the waterway since last weekend.

Twenty-six of the 33 docks alongside a 3.7-kilometer stretch of the creek reported complete paralysis early this week due to overcrowding, Shanghai Maritime Safety Administration said yesterday.

The docks are all used to store shipments, mostly of construction material, unloaded from or to be transported by small cargo barges, the main users of the waterway.

Several hundred barges, either empty or fully loaded, had crowded into the creek and were unable to move due to congestion. Some ships had been unable to move for 10 days.

Nearly 100 maritime officers and 20 speed boats were attempting to create a channel for the ships. Empty ships were given first priority to get moving, because they were faster, authorities said.

Priority was also being given to ships carrying household waste. The maritime authority said the daily transportation of household waste for downtown Jing'an and Changning districts, and suburban Baoshan, Minhang and Qingpu districts, was facing disruptions.

The waterway is having a booming cargo traffic, a result of the city's heavy demand for construction materials.

Authorities said nearly 30 million tons of construction materials were shipped into the city on the creek last year and the amount will be bigger this year.

The under-construction Shanghai-Beijing Express Railway and the Hongqiao Integrated Transport Hub projects have also greatly increased the shipments of construction materials on the creek.

"Currently, we are arranging areas on the water for ships to make turns and opening up temporary berths to make room for directing traffic," said Fan Shikang, a maritime official. But more work will be needed to prevent jams in future because the creek is running out of capacity, he said.

The maritime watchdog urged concerned local departments to come up with long-term solutions quickly to relieve traffic pressure on the creek.

Continuous rain early this month caused most ships to postpone their creek trips to the weekend, also triggering the traffic overflow.

Patrol boats yesterday were also sending water and food to barges.


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