LOS ANGELES, Dec. 28 -– China has begun receiving oil shipments from Thailand via the Mekong River, marking the start of an experimental program announced earlier this year (OGJ, Apr. 10, 2006, p. 28).
Two ships, each carrying 150 tonnes of oil, arrived in southwest China's Yunnan Province on the Mekong River, which is being viewed as an alternative to the Strait of Malacca as a regular route for shipping oil to China.
China in March signed an agreement with Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand on shipping oil on the waterway, with an initial shipping quota of 1,200 tonnes/month.
But the three Southeast Asian nations later agreed to raise the quota after China set up an emergency response team to ensure the safety of the shipments.
Experts said as much as 200,000 tons of oil would be shipped to Yunnan via the Mekong when the quota was scrapped and the transportation cost was about $25/tonne less than for shipping by land.
Because of the increased quota, Qiao Xinmin, chief of the Yunnan provincial maritime affairs bureau, said China would ship about 70,000 tonnes/year of oil from Thailand alone via the river.
According to Qiao, more than 20 experts from China, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand are checking ports and oil shipping facilities along the river, studying the feasibility of shipping even larger volumes of oil.
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