Yantze River Reaches 5 Year Lows. Bottom Exposed

Sunday, January 13, 2008 2:06

In the midst of my Yantgze report, I came across several articles that show just how exposed to the elements trade along the Yangtze is. Historically cycling between the two extremes of flood and drought, the Yangtze river level can fluctuate quite a bit. However, after a drought in the middle of the country, ships have begun to get stuck.

Yangtze River most thirsty in 50 years from CCTV and Riverbed Surfaces in Yangtze Wuhan Section from China Digital Times provide the details

The level of the Yangtze section in East China’s Anhui Province, has dropped from 9 meters to 1.3 meters and continues to fall by 3 centimeters a day.

This is the year that Wuhan’s Yangtze water level hit its historical low, 14.05 meters.

Nearly 20% of the river islands (sand bars) are new in the past five years.

On a good day, the Yangtze only utilizes 20% or so of its capacity for river traffic. The lower reaches (Shanghai to Jiujiang) are naturally the deepest waters, while the middle reaches (Jiujiang to Yichang) see 30-50% reduction in draft, and the final leg from Chongqing(3 gorges dam) are the most shallow.

In terms of economic impact, the majority of the impact will be domestic as the majority of materials on the river are raw materials (coal, iron ore, steel bars, etc) headed to factories & power plants. As we saw with the heavy fog in Shanghai this week, these disruptions can lead to signifcant backups along the river, and as such a constriction of industry for a short period.

On a global trade scale, the impact is more subtle as the Yangtze’s container volumes are still to low to really have a wide impact, but the domestic flow could. This is bound to change though as nearly all of the yantgze’s 24 ports are investing in expansion, local governments are building infrastructure , logsitics firms are buying boats, and so on. As I put forth in my post Implications of a Containerized Yangtze River last year, the Yangtze is critical to the ongoing balance of China’s economy, and given all the dredging going on it is clear that I am not the only one who believes that.

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

9 Responses to “Yantze River Reaches 5 Year Lows. Bottom Exposed”

  1. Jay Boyle says:

    January 14th, 2008 at 2:48 am

    If this keeps up they are going to have to seriously rethink the Yangze River Pumping project.


  2. Rich says:

    January 14th, 2008 at 3:19 am


    they have already been pumping a load of water from 3 Gorges too. The problem is that they cannot release too much for fear they will flood some of the villages nearby. It really is a catch 22 in some ways.


  3. Jay Boyle says:

    January 14th, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Are we talking about the same thing? I am talking about the pumping project that is to divert water from the Yangzi to the north of China.


  4. Rich says:

    January 14th, 2008 at 9:32 pm


    We are talking about the same thing in a different manner. What I was trying to point out is that the tap is now at 3 gorges, and if they cannot release any more water… then the project you mentioned is also a dud.


  5. Bandaranike says:

    January 17th, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Hi Rich
    Talking about pumping project, have you heard about a new dredging company ECDC that has started up dredging at Jianli? Pumping up sand on shore with the first dredger of it’s kind in China.

  6. Rich says:

    January 17th, 2008 at 6:42 pm


    Thanks for the tip on ECDC. I have not looked into the equipment side of the story, but glad you pointed that out. Do you have a website?


  7. bamndaranike says:

    January 19th, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Hi Rich

    This EC dredging company has a very interesting hydrodredging technique. The concept is innovative and it can be reassembled and transported on ordinary lorries to places that otherwise can be difficult to reach and it can operate on very shallow waters, less than 1 meter, when ordinary dredgers need 2-3 meters depth.

    The company has a brand new website, and it is almost ready to be announced, there is some small adjustments to be done, but if you contact me on my email I can give you the address + email address to the MD working in China.

  8. Rich says:

    January 21st, 2008 at 1:47 am


    Thanks. I will be in touch soon!

  9. Alexander Richards says:

    May 1st, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    Dear Everyone,

    I am Alexander Richards and besides being an entrepreneur the Chairman & CEO of Eurochinadredging Ltd and also a great friend of China. I believe that it is possible to solve many of these sedimentations issues without at the same time hinder continues growth in China. We must find practical and sustainable solutions without tampering with the great and ongoing development of China. We do have the solutions to many of these difficulties. With focused attempts from companies like ourselves from governments and local partners we can in a environmentally friendly way solve the sedimentation issues in rivers, lakes, canals, navigation channels and hydro dams.

    We are building a platform in which we are offering environmental dredging using the latest water cleaning and sediment handling technologies along side our dredging solution offering a complete package. If there are other proven technologies or knowledgeable persons reading this, who wishes to either joint our growing team or has proven technology that will be beneficial in speeding up the process of making China green and clean, then contact us so that we can evaluate the opportunities together.

    All the Best

    Alexander Richards