[By Xie Chuanjiao in Qingdao, Shandong | chinadaily.com.cn]
A new container shipping line between Qingdao and Weihai, two coastal cities in eastern Shandong province, witnessed its maiden voyage on Saturday, a fresh step to accelerate port asset integration in the province.
Li Fengli, general manager of newly established Shandong Province Port Group, said the new line will operate three times a week and will bring the two cities' ports closer and especially give full play to Weihai port in international trade.
"Weihai has its unique geographical advantage with its location as the shortest shipping distance from mainland Chinese cities to Japan and South Korea," said Li, who is also chairman of Qingdao Port, adding that Weihai port aims to be a new hub connecting the two Asian countries.
Besides, the line is also expected to help expand transportation businesses among the Bohai Ring cities, including Dongying, Weifang and Longkou in Shandong province as well as Dalian in Liaoning province.
Launched on August 6, Shandong Province Port Group integrated the Qingdao Port, Yantai Port, Rizhao Port and the Bohai Bay Port Group in the province. The consolidation aims to expand its operations into the China's inland areas and is expected to play a bigger role in the Belt and Road Initiative.
Before that, Qingdao port announced merger with its neighbor Weihai Port on July 9. Latest statistics showed that new operation in Weihai Port achieved double-digit growth in container numbers, revenue and profit after one month of the merger.
"We hope port integration in Shandong province will give fresh impetus to regional development," Li said.