(Repeating story first sent on Thursday to additional
By Meng Meng and Josephine Mason
TIANJIN, China/BEIJING May 11 On a recent visit
to the area around Tianjin Port Co Ltd, there were
more than one hundred empty trucks parked at the coal storage
centre run by Ningdong Logistic Co.
Once one of the busiest places close to Tianjin's sprawling
port, the storage facility was now silent as activity had ground
to a halt after the port operator last month announced a ban on
trucking in coal or storing it there. The announcement was
sooner than expected.
It is a sign that Beijing's years-long war on pollution is
disrupting the logistics of the market for coal - one of China's
crucial commodities - as well as the lives of what trucking
industry insiders estimate are 60,000 drivers who carry coal to
and from the port.
The central government has said it may extend the measure to
ports in heavily industrialised Hebei province by September as
it tries to combat choking pollution that often blankets the
north of the country, including nearby Beijing.
"I was sending coal from Inner Mongolia to the port and
carrying imported iron ore from the port to other places. The
government has completely cut my livelihood," said Wang
Fangyuan, who was based in Tianjin but has left with a fleet of
40 trucks and their drivers to ply the trade in Erdos, 800 miles
to the northwest in Inner Mongolia.
"I have been working in this tough business for more than
six years. What they have done is just adding more difficulty to
our harsh life," he said by phone.
Until now, Beijing's efforts to cut overcapacity and
pollution had little impact on the output of the country's
favorite fuel. Outdated, inefficient mines were shut, only to be
replaced with production from leaner, cleaner ones.
The ban has helped knock about 20 percent off Tianjin Port's
shares but had its desired effect on air quality, at least
"The air is so much cleaner now," said Wang Di, 29, who lost
his job driving a coal truck and lives next to what had until
recent weeks been a main trucking route near the port.
"It used to be very dirty. We couldn't even keep the windows
open for more than five minutes. Otherwise, my face would be
covered in coal dust."
A key coal hub, Tianjin Port last year handled about 110
million tonnes of coal arriving by truck and rail.
The port has said it is taking measures to increase rail
freight to help offset the loss of trucked coal.
"The ban is aimed at reducing pollution from trucking coal,
but they can use railways instead," said an analyst at Lianxun
Securities who asked that his name not be used.
Total coal stocks at the port dropped to 1.9 million tonnes
on May 8, from 2.82 million tonnes on April 21, according to
data provided by consultancy China Sublime Information Group.
"The ban has sharply weakened Tianjin port's role as a
leading trade port in China," said Zhang Min, a coal analyst
with Sublime, putting it at a disadvantage to other ports such
as Tangshan and Caofeidian.
It has also created traffic jams at nearby Huanghua port in
Hebei province, and threatens to increase the cost of moving
coal as traders shift to rail, which is more expensive.
Inside the port's own coal storage area, around 600,000
tonnes of coking coal is covered in green plastic webbing since
the start of May to reduce dust. Sprinklers are used to keep the
At a parking lot outside the port, driver Zhao Haidong is
looking to sell his treasured Dongfeng Motor Hercules for just
40,000 yuan ($5,793) to 50,000 yuan ($7,240) after waiting
around the port area for more than two weeks without work.
Six years ago, Zhao paid 160,000 yuan for the vehicle, and
since then had been trucking the black stuff the short distance
from a bulk commodities centre in Tianjin to the port.
A migrant from northeast China with two children in school
in Tianjin, Zhao won't consider moving to Huanghua port.
"Drivers at the nearby port are underpaid and overworked
because of a large group of drivers flooding into that port. I
can only earn less than half of my current rate if I move."
($1 = 6.9053 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(Reporting by Meng Meng and Josephine Mason; additional
reporting by Beijing newsroom and Samuel Shen in Shanghai.;
Editing by Tony Munroe and Martin Howell)