Chinese-Made Buses, to be exported to Mexico. [Photo by Wang Peng, Yang Jiangqi]
By Gou Wen
"I didn't expect the shipping of these vehicles to go so smoothly in Ningbo. We're on our way back to Hefei. Almost there now!" This was a message sent by Wang Shaokai of Anhui Ankai Bus Company to our correspondent.
You would never know that just several days ago, he was deeply anxious over the international shipping of a fleet of buses. Thanks to a cross-Yangtze collaboration between local authorities, the company was able to meet the deadline of its international shipment.
An Urgent Task
"We are very anxious about this order. A public sector client from Mexico placed an order for 800 buses, the largest order from Mexico that a Chinese bus maker has ever received. Originally, the buses were to be shipped from Shanghai's port, but due COVID-19-related travel restrictions, we decided to ship the first 70 vehicles from the Ningbo Zhoushan Port instead," said Zhang Haiyang, an employee of Anhui Ankai Bus Company. According to the sales contract, the buses must be shipped on May 1, otherwise Ankai would have to bear contractual penalties and perhaps even lose the trust of an overseas public sector client.
At 5 PM on April 23, Ningbo received a request from Anhui to facilitate the Ankai buses' passage. After arranging for clearance with Ningbo's public health authorities and transportation authorities, a fleet of 35 buses departed from Anhui at 8 AM, April 24, bound for the Ningbo Zhoushan Port.
Because Ankai buses are powered by natural gas, the fleet went off the expressway at Huzhou, Zhejiang for a gas refill at 7 PM on April 24.
"We have a lot of buses. The refilling took about four or five hours," said Wang Shaokai. At the gas filling station, he was very worried about potential further delays at Huzhou and Ningbo's toll stations, leaving the fleet stranded on the road.
Close Cooperation Between
Authorities Provide Express Passage
Fortunately, the Ankai fleet was not delayed, as Zhejiang's provincial transportation and public health departments had already given advance clearance. In no time, the fleet was back on the road again after their refueling stop. Ningbo's transportation department and Ningbo Zhoushan Port suggested that Ankai forward the drivers' identity and health information to them in advance, to make for an even faster entry into the city and the port.
Wang Shaokai did not sleep a wink on the journey. As required, he collected all 39 Ankai members' PCR testing results and sent them to Ningbo's authorities; he also made sure the drivers were all wearing proper PPE before exiting the Beilun Guoju Expressway toll station.
At 7 AM on April 25, the Ankai fleet arrived at Guoju. The toll station staff had been informed of their arrival and even opened up additional lanes, letting the buses pass through quickly.
At 10 AM, the fleet reached the Ningbo Zhoushan Port, where port staff were already waiting. They led the fleet to a specially-reserved terminal, where the buses were quickly driven onto the ships.
Afterwards, the Ningbo Zhoushan Port set up a "green channel" to transport the 35 drivers and 4 Ankai employee back to Anhui.
The Start of a New Journey
Ningbo and Hefei jointly arranged expedited passage for 70 Ankai buses to the Ningbo Zhoushan Port, where they were shipped overseas.
At the customs checkpoint at the Meishan terminal, license plates are recognized automatically by smart sensors. It takes less than a second for the recognition to be completed and the barrier gate to open. The first fleet of 35 buses passed in only 6 minutes. Paper forms are no longer required.
After more than ten hours on the road, Wang Shaokai appeared tired as he stood at the terminal. But he was grateful. "The pandemic has led to travel restrictions on the roads, which made things difficult for exporters like us. But thanks to a partnership between Ningbo and Hefei's local authorities, we were afforded a 'green channel' to the port. Thank you for your support and help."
Of the 800 buses that Ankai is exporting to Mexico, several dozen have already left via the port in Shanghai. There are plans to ship all of the remaining buses via the Ningbo Zhoushan Port.