The American Society of Transportation and Logistics Inc. (ASTL) held the first Yangtze Mississippi Rivers Forum in Chongqing, China in 2010. This month the parties had an opportunity to continue their dialogue in New Orleans in conjunction with the Smart Rivers Conference.
The forum was initiated to be a platform for communication and cooperation between stakeholders of these two rivers, including government entities, research institutions, shipping and logistics industries and industry related associations. Throughout the 2010 Forum, representatives from both countries shared experiences about the development of shipping, logistics and regional economic issues along the rivers, and exchanged views on a strategic cooperation. The event laid foundations for collaboration on issues of administration of the two rivers, shipping and logistics on inland waterways, and economic development within the two regions.
By holding the 2011 Forum in conjunction with Smart Rivers the organizers had a chance to also have an impact on European and South American executives. Co-locating with Smart Rivers facilitated discussion over similar issues along the Danube River and Panama Canal, and allowed attendees to continue their conversations throughout the week.
A pre-forum dinner cruise on the Mississippi was held celebrating the Chinese Moon Festival. Participants were able to observe barge and port operations during the cruise. U.S. Maritime Administrator David Matsuda officially opened the forum with an address highlighting key issues impacting the Mississippi and Yangtze rivers such as growth, benefits of marine highways, awareness within the shipping industry, multi modal collaboration, and financing. He discussed US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood's formal designation of America's Marine Highways, composed of 18 marine highway corridors all across the country. He noted that like the US network of local roads and highways, waterways form complex connections throughout the US. The Mississippi alone is 1,800 miles, with more than 7,200 miles of connecting tributaries. The use of such waterways can strengthen the country's mobility, environmental sustainability, economic competitiveness, safety, shipbuilding, and defense capability.
Spencer Murphy of Canal Barge Company spoke on risk management and dredging, addressing critical issues facing the Mississippi River. Chinese representatives from the cites of Chongqing, Shanghai, Wuhan, and Zhoushan, spoke on key issues being they addressed along the Yangtze River. Each highlighted the investments being made and strategies being implemented to enhance productivity in the eastern ports and to better use the Yangtze to open trade into western China.
Courtney Gregoire, Director of the National Export Initiative (NEI) of the US Department of Commerce, opened the afternoon sessions. The NEI is focused on improving trade advocacy and export promotion efforts, increasing access to credit, especially for small and medium-sized businesses, removing barriers to the sale of U.S. goods and services abroad, robustly enforcing trade rules, and pursuing policies at the global level to promote strong, sustainable, and balanced growth. Gregoire discussed the importance of the efficient movements of goods to meet the country's exporting goals, and addressed the priority of maintaining and strengthening the infrastructure of our inland waterways and seaports to support these goals.
Additional topics covered in the afternoon were emergency preparedness, and movement of hazardous materials and their impact on the environment. The Forum concluded with a summary of the Yangtze River Report produced by Jon Monroe Consulting. Monroe highlighted the upper, middle, and lower reaches of the Yangtze River as well as the delta and coastal areas. All of these are driven by rapid urbanization and improved infrastructure. He noted that, by 2020, China shift from a dependency on exports to a more balanced trade flow.
The forum concluded with an evening reception and port tour hosted by the Port of New Orleans.
Pictures and presentations will be posted to the ASTL website www.ASTL.org.