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Chinese premier stresses transport of coal, oil, fertilizer, grain

Extremely concerned about the short supply of coal, oil, electricity and transport services across the country, the Chinese premier has been inspecting related sectors recently, and called for guaranteeing transport of key materials including coal, oil, fertilizer and grain.

Premier Wen Jiabao made the call Thursday in Beijing when inspecting a highway toll station in the suburbs of Beijing and a railway cargo transport station. He also visited the State Power Distribution Center on Monday to encourage power departments to go all-out for alleviation of the summer power shortage.

"Railway departments should do their utmost for the transport of coal for electricity generation," he said, requiring other departments to quicken coal transport through road and water routes.

China's railways shipped 480 million tons of coal in the first half of this year, up 12.2 percent over the same period last year. Shipment of grain rose 13.1 percent to 55.59 million tons, chemical fertilizer and other materials for agriculture use rose 5.6 percent to 33.33 million tons, and oil rose 12.1 percent to 58.67 million tons, according to the Ministry of Railways.

The ministry has allocated 90 percent of its cargo freight capacity to guarantee the transport of key materials, raised train speed and increased freight load. To date, all the major trunk lines have been operating at full capacity.

However, due to the rocketing demand for coal, oil, grain and other raw materials, only one third of the freight demand could be met at present, according to the ministry.

The Chinese Ministry of Communications (MOC) has given the green light to emergency coal transportation on roads and waterways linking coal centers with the major parts of the country.

Since the end of last year, the MOC has organized many of its large shipping companies to withdraw some vessels from the overseas shipping market for emergency domestic coal

transportation. At the same time, many Chinese ports like Qinhuangdao, Tianjin and Guangzhou, speeded up the process of enlarging and rebuilding their coal docks, so as to meet the increasing need of coal shipment.

Latest statistics show that China will face a shortage of electricity exceeding 30 million kilowatts in the third quarter, meaning that more coal will be needed for power.

"The alleviation of the transport supply and demand tension is an important task in macro-control," Wen said.

Since late last year the Chinese government has taken a series of macro-control measures to curb the overheating of national economy.

These measures include tightening up control over investment and bank loans through a combination of economic and legal means, raising the deposit-reserve ratio for financial institutions, strictly checking on illegal land acquisition and use, and cutting industrial projects which consume lots of energy and resources but lack economic efficiency.

"We should optimize transport capacity allocation, and further tap the transport potential," Wen said.

He also underscored strict management and transport safety, urging further construction of all kinds of transport infrastructure.

China's railways in operation account for only 6 percent of the world's total, yet they shoulder 25 percent of the freight volume in the world, statistics show.

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