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Maritime Cities: Shanghai on the up

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Dynamic and bustling: Shanghai is the world’s busiest container port and China’s economic powerhouse. Hapag-Lloyd Operations Manager Terry Ye reveals where there are some quieter places as well.

Moving through Shanghai during rush hour requires steady nerves. Millions of people on their way to work throng into the urban canyons of the economic metropolis at the same time on buses, in cars and on motorbikes. The streets are jammed, noise levels are high and the air is heavy. “Commuters on the underground trains are lucky if they find a place to stand – although you can’t fall over because it’s so packed,” says Terry Ye, laughing. Shanghai bustles – for the self-assured people of China’s biggest metropolis, ahead even of Beijing, the crowds are also a symbol of a ubiquitous energy: “You can feel the vitality, the hunger for success and the willingness of the people to work hard,” enthuses Ye.

But Shanghai has not always been as dynamic as it is now in the second decade of the 21st century. After the Second World War, the city in the east of the People’s Republic was initially neglected in favour of Beijing. It was not until the new economic policies of the early 1990s that Shanghai developed into a boom town. Today, the city is one of the world’s biggest and most vibrant metropolises, with around 25 million inhabitants, and is one of the most important engines of the Chinese economy. The textile industry, steel production, automotive and mechanical engineering as well as the chemical and pharmaceutical industries are some of the key economic sectors.

And, of course, the shipping industry. The city has always benefited from its favourable location on the Yangtze Delta – where the longest river in China enters the sea. The area has been a trading hub from an early stage, and the volume of goods handled has positively exploded in recent decades. In 2010, Shanghai became the world’s biggest container port, and a record volume of 36.5 million TEU was handled here in 2015.

This has largely been thanks to the construction of the new deep-water Port of Yangshan, which is not affected by tides. It was built in Hangzhou Bay on and between numerous islands and opened in 2005. Although the new facilities are not expected to be fully ready until 2020, more than ten large ships can already be handled simultaneously on 5,800 meters of quays. Sailors and visitors to the quays can look out across a sea of thousands upon thousands of containers. The new port is linked to Shanghai by the 32-kilometer Donghai Bridge – the second-longest cross-sea bridge in the world.

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