In 2013, Shaanxi Iron and Steel (Group) Co had begun to talk with Chongqing's Guoyuan port about setting up a bulk trading center in western China to reduce costs and risks in the iron ore market. The port, a gateway to a vast inland area, lies near the headwaters of the Yangtze River. [Special coverage]
But the project remained in talks until Communist Party of China General Secretary Xi Jinping visited in January 2016. The two sides sped up the project and started construction of the trading center on June 22.
"Xi's visit gave us a lot of confidence about the future of the port," said Yang Huabin of the Shaanxi company, who is based in Chongqing to lead the project. "Our trading center will change the landscape of the country's iron ore trade."
Xi saw the potential. "This is full of promise," he said while inspecting Guoyuan port. The comprehensive transportation hub includes railways, highways and waterways and is home to 16 ship berths that can handle vessels that can carry 5,000 metric tons.
Having received investment of 10.5 billion yuan ($1.6 billion), it can handle 30 million tons of bulk cargo and 1 million commercial vehicles every year.
During his visit, Xi said the Belt and Road Initiative will provide a bigger platform for Chongqing to "go out", and the development of the Yangtze River Delta Economic Zone, composed of Shanghai and surrounding areas near the river's mouth, will assist connections with central and coastal areas of China.
Xi also said Chongqing should become an inland international logistics hub.
"The instructions from President Xi are the guidelines for our work," said Huang Ji, vice general manager of Chongqing Port Affairs Logistics Co.
It is now planning to improve intermodal transport and transshipment efficiency.
Thanks to the port connecting the Yangtze and the railway, logistics costs are much lower than for the previous rail route.
"Our company has bought 600,000 tons of iron ore and saved about 24 million yuan from January to August this year," Yang said.
The cost is expected to be further reduced by 70 yuan per ton after the Chongqing-Lanzhou high-speed railway opens on Sept 29, trimming distances.
"When the bulk trading center at Guoyuan port starts to operate in the near future, the logistics cost via the Yangtze River to northwest China will be cut by half."
Guoyuan port already is a major hub to transfer bulk cargo from neighboring provinces to Shanghai. Guoyuan port also has formed partnerships with overseas logistics companies to boost connectivity with countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road.
On Aug 31, Chongqing launched the "1+1" Multimodal Transport & Logistics Demonstration Project. It is a key element of cooperation with the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity, which aims to pilot cooperation across the fields of financial services, aviation, transportation, logistics and information communication technology.
The port also will build a platform for China Railway Express to connect Chongqing with Europe. "The intercontinental train will start right from our port," Huang said.