Train Ferry for Hainan
Designed by the No 708 Institute of the China Shipbuilding and Trading Company and manufactured by the Shanghai Jiangnan Shipyard, Yuehai Railway , the first Chinese-made train ferry at a cost of 210 million (US $25 million) passed a rigorous series of tests and met design requirements. It began trial operation on December 28, 2002. China′s first-ever maritime rail service was successfully launched on January 7, 2003 with the loading of a locomotive, two freight train cars, and a number of trucks onto a railway ferry. The century-old dream of Dr Sun Yet-sen—a vanguard of the Chinese revolution—of a direct rail link from the Chinese mainland to Hainan Island, has become a reality. The carrier links Hainan with Wuwen County in nearby Guangding Province. The 12.5-nautical-mile (the 24-kilometer-long ferry route ) Qiongzhou Straits had been a bottleneck blocking the development of the island province but the ship is capable of keeping stable while sailing in heavy gales and can travel at a speed of more than 15 knots per hour, and crosses it in more than 40 minutes. It is a big spur to the development of Hainan Province and the exploration of resources in the South China Sea. Its significance lies not just in its being an economic boost but also because it enhances the national defence as well. The maritime rail service is part of the Guangding-Hainan railway which consists of a 139.12-kilometer stretch of track running from Zhanjiang to Hai an, the ferry crossing and 182 kilometers of track across Hainan’s west coast from Haikou to Sanya, a popular seaside resort on the southern tip of the island. Although using ferries to take trains across the Qiongzho9u Straits can not compare with a marine tunnel in terms of time-saving, transport capacity, all-weather traffic and comfort, it is the best time at present in terms of cost and furthermore, fully met current demands. The ferry was initially limited to handling freight; passengers and their vehicles follow later in 2003. The cost of building a tunnel under the Qiongzhou Straits is estimated at over 20 billion yuan (US 2.41 billion), whereas the entire rail connection; begun in August in 1998, cost 4.5 billion yuan (US 542 million). The line from Zhanjiang to Hai’an has been in use since December 2001. Three ferries eventually ply the Qiongzhou Straits. The first pair will cost 400 million yuan (US 48.19 million). The 12,400-ton ship, which cost 210 million yuan (US 25 million) has passed a rigorous series of tests and met design requirements. With a minimum speed of 15 nautical miles per hour, the ferry is 165.4 meters long and 22.6 meters wide. Its main deck, built for a standard load of 4,200 tons, can hold a 40-car freight train or an 18-car passenger train. Its cabins meet the standard of a three-star hotel to provide a comfortable service for passengers. It is also equipped with a black box, radar, a fireproof lighting system, lifesaving equipment and emergency exits, which combine to ensure an evacuation time of 30 minutes or less. The ferry is gauged capable of safely navigating the straits in gale-force winds. A second similar ferry came into service in April and the railroad from Haikou to Sanya opened to traffic late in 2003. Guangdong Province, one of China′s economic powerhouse, is one of the country′s leading export processing bases, while Hainan Province, China′s biggest special economic zone, has grown slowly and remained comparatively backward due to its restrictive transport connection. The new railway link in place, the movement of people and goods between the island and the mainland has been greatly improved.
The two provinces and the Ministry of Ministry of Railways decided during the 1980s to build the Yuehai (Guangdong-Hainan) Passage, which comprises two railways and the train ferry. Work started in 1997.