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Steamship Fleets of the PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA 



Another category of major operators is the State-owned fleets operated by the PRC's different geographic Maritime Bureaus after 1949.  Our listing so far focuses on cargo and passengers ships and Yangtse ferries operated in the Mao era, and the final generation of Yangtse river ferries which expanded rapidly in the Deng era, but then declined. These ships are presented in the PDF files named below. It is believed that none of the passenger ships illustrated on this page sailed outside of Chinese coastal waters when registered in the PRC.

Shanghai Maritime Bureau HOPING, ZHANDOU, HEPING, QIAN SHAO and ZHE HAI cargo ships

Shanghai Maritime Bureau MIN CHU & GONG NONG BING series cargo-passenger ships (Part I)

Other passenger ships of  the Shanghai Maritime Bureau (Part II)

Guangzhou Maritime Bureau NAN HAI & HONG QI series cargo ships

Guangzhou Maritime Bureau passenger ships

Dalian Maritime Bureau passenger ships (North China)

Changjiang (Yangtse) Shipping Corp. passenger ships

COSCO 57 cargoliners built in China

Ocean Tramping Co. Ltd 远洋轮船有限公司, Hong Kong (1957)

Yick Fung Shipping & Enterprises Co. Ltd 益丰船务企业有限公司,

Hong Kong (1960)



Shanghai Maritime Bureau HOPING, ZHANDOU, HEPING, QIAN SHAO and ZHE HAI cargo ships-In the early-1950s, coastal ships based in Shanghai were added to the fleet of the state's Shanghai Maritime Bureau, often after passing through private-public partnerships.  Priority was given to the repair, reconditioning, and from the late-1950s, construction of cargo ships.  For the SMB's early CHUNG HSING series, see the final part of the CHUNG HSING list via the Other Chinese Companies page. The main Shanghai-based cargo fleet was developed with ships named in the HOPING ('Peace') series which started at HOPING 1. To instill revolutionary fervour at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution all the names were changed from HOPING to ZHANDOU ('Combat'). An illustrated list of these HOPING, ZHANDOU and subsequent series Mao-era cargo ships may be found in the PDF file at right. The Bureau operated many different ships. First shown below from Alan Lee's photographic collection is ZHANDOU 1, built in 1921 for Deutsche D/S A/S ‘Hansa’, Bremen as WARTENFELS. The second photo shows the Soviet-bloc built ZHANDOU 37 alongside the ZHANDOU 3, the former British CLAN SUTHERLAND, which was purchased in 1971 (photo by Markus Berger).

Shanghai Maritime Bureau MIN CHU & GONG NONG BING series cargo-passenger ships (Part I)-Gradually a coastal passenger fleet of 20 ships bearing MIN CHU ('Democracy') names was built up for operating to Ningpo. Wenchow, Tientsin, Dalian and a few other northern ports.  The ships in this sub-fleet of the Shanghai Maritime Bureau are listed in the illustrated PDF at right.  The vessel depicted below in Karsten Petersen's wonderful 1973 photograph is the GONG NONG BING 6 ('Workers Peasants & Soldiers 6') in the Whangpoo river approaching Shanghai. The ship was built in the United States in 1899, and after this photo was taken, underwent an external modernisation, shown in the illustrated list.  The second illustration is of the MIN CHU 10, newly constructed by the historic Jiangnan Dockyard in 1955.























Other passenger ships of  the Shanghai Maritime Bureau (Part II), including passenger ships with ZHE HAI and ZHE JIANG names, and the large CHANG and XIN classes are covered in the next PDF at right. The first photo below, taken by Chris Mackey, shows the CHANG GENG moored on the outside of cargo ship ZHANDOU 28, as they both undergo careful maintenance at Shanghai.  The second by Markus Berger, shows the RUI XIN, one of two 7000 gt catamaran passenger ships built to the design of Shanghai Transportation University in 1985 for the Shanghai-Wenzhou service.



















Guangzhou Maritime Bureau NAN HAI & HONG QI series cargo ships-From 1951 until 1985 cargo ships acquired and operated by the Guangzhou Maritime Bureau were given names starting with NAN HAI ('South Sea') and subsequently HONG QI ('Red Flag'). In the early years the ships were not usually seen in foreign ports and it has been difficult to ensure a complete list and appropriate photographs.  However, we now feel confident enough to present the study in the PDF file at right.  Corrections and further photograhic contributions in Chinese colours would be appreciated. Illustrated below are HONG QI 151, formerly NAN HAI 151, built in Romania in 1965  (photo by Markus Berger) and HONG QI 131, acquired secondhand in 1978 (photo by Chris Mackey).






























Guangzhou Maritime Bureau passener ships-The next PDF contains an illustrated list of the passenger ships of the state-owned Guangzhou Maritime Bureau. Two sample photographs are shown below. The first depicts HAI TANG, a former Yangtse river steamer built in 1935 at Shanghai, at the inner harbor, Zhanjiang, Guangdong on 14 April 1961. The second shows MU DAN, built in Guangzhou as HONG WEI 15 in 1978 (both SK coll.).



Dalian Maritime Bureau-Following the transfer of Manchurian territory from the administration of the Soviet Union to China in the 1950s, this Bureau was established in 1957 to run all passenger and cargo shipping administered hitherto both by the Shanghai Bureau's Dalian Sub-bureau and otherwise in the Pohai Gulf.  The passenger ships were eventually transferred to a new national entity called China Shipping Passenger Liner Co. Ltd. The Dalian passenger ships are listed in the PDF at right. Shown below in CSPLC colours is TIAN JIANG, built at Tianjin for the Dalian Bureau in 1984 (Przemek Mrowiec/Shipspotting).

Changjiang (Yangtse) Shiping Corp. operated the Yangtse river steamers in the 1960s, taking over the passnger fleets run by China Merchants (CHIANG names) and by the Ming Sung Industrial company (MING names).  These were re-organised into one fleet in 1966 with DONG FANG HONG ("The East is Red") names and a unique number.  Vessels with pre-revolutionary origins, such as DONG FANG HONG ships numbered up to No.10 are listed with full histories and illustrations, as far as available, in the first PDF at right.  Vessels built after 1949, such as DONG FANG HONG ships numbered No.11 and later are listed with illustrations but without full histories, in the second PDF.  The first ship below is the DONG FANG HONG 2 built as the YOH YANG MARU in 1906 and retired in the early 1980s after safely completing one million nautical miles (Yangtse Bureau photo). The second  ship is the JIANG HAN 55, constructed in 1972 by the Yangtse Bureau Qingshan Dockyard as the DONG FANG HONG 38. At 2807 gt, she was the largest Yangtse passenger ship to be newly built since the early 1940s and was capable of a through voyage to Chongqing. She was photographed by Stephen from the Bund at Shanghai on 21 October 2000, evidently approaching the passenger terminal to load for an evening departure.


The COSCO 57 cargoliners built in China from 1959 until 1985 are covered  with many illustrations in the list in the PDF file at right.  The study shows how shipbuilding in China evolved, slowly at first in the 1950s and 60s and more rapidly from the 1970s, as well as how the COSCO cargo fleet which undertook shipping to foreign ports developed.  Further separate studies are planned of the cargo ships built abroad for COSCO in this period and the many acquired secondhand.  Shown first below is an early China-built COSCO steamship, the TUAN JIE (also known as TUAN CHIEH) completed at the Dalian Shipyard in 1964 (SK coll.). Included in this list also is the DAXING, built at the same yard in 1974 and shown here anchored at Hong Kong in December 1981 (Donald Anderson).











PRC Beneficially Owned Companies

Ocean Tramping Co. Ltd was established in Hong Kong in 1957 as a company beneficially owned by the People's Republic of China to purchase ships for temporary registration under flags of convenience for transfer to Chinese domestic entities. From 1960 Ocean Tramping and its subsidiaries began to morph into being ship operators and In 1963 Ocean Tramping started to diversify into deep-sea tramp shipping with expanded operations. In the late 1960s the role of Ocean Tramping further evolved with the secondhand purchase of newer, larger and faster ships, including many British and European cargoliners and bulk carriers, for deep-sea trading or for registration under the PRC flag. Some tankers were also acquired. On 1 November 1994 Ocean Tramping and Yick Fung announced their merger to form COSCO (H.K.) Shipping Co. Ltd, which officially commenced business on 8 February 1996 with 78 ships being operated and 3.97 million deadweight tons managed. The listing in the PDF file at right covers the ships, including in detail those acquired up to and including 1970, such as the FRANKFORD (Dr. George Wilson) and smart OCEANTRAMP (coll. M. Cranfield) depicted below.



The key figure in the founding of Yick Fung Shipping & Enterprises Co. Ltd was Cheng Laichuan, a native of Putian, Fujian who had become active in Hong Kong in the 1950s arranging non-Chinese flag vessels to run the Nationalist blockade to Fuzhou and other ports. He came up with the idea of using Hong Kong finance to purchase and operate flag of convenience vessels for these and wider profit-making operations and this was secretly approved by PRC Minister of Transport Wang Shoudao in February 1960 leading to Yick Fung's establishment in Hong Kong in April as a private company funded and controlled by Cheng. In November 1963 the Communist Party Central Committee and the State Planning Commission expanded this idea to use funds raised in Hong Kong to directly purchase ships via Ocean Tramping and Yick Fung to develop the country's ocean-going fleet (COSCO), although this strategy remained a state secret. In 1966 Cheng formally gifted the Yick Fung organisation, its ships and a ship maintenance facility in Hong Kong to the Chinese state. At right is a PDF file containing a short history and illustrated fleet list of Yick Fung. The first Yick Fung ship illustrated below is the Italian-built GREENLAND SEA, acquired in 1973, photo by John White showing the once familiar Yick Fung funnel colours. The second ship is the HARMONY SEA, photographed by Gerolf Drebes off Flushing in June 1993. She was built in Taiwan and is a sister of JEANNIE which features on our home page.  Like many of the later Yick Fung ships she is showing the funnel colours of the major affiliate Tong Ling Shipping & Enterprises.

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