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 center run by Ningdong Logistic Co, Reuters reported.
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 industrialized 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.
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 Outdated, inefficient mines were shut, only to be replaced with production from leaner, cleaner ones.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% off Tianjin Port's shares but had its desired effect on air quality, at least locally.
Tianjin Port, which last year handled about 110 million tonnes of coal arriving by truck and rail, has said it is taking measures to increase rail freight to help offset the loss of trucked coal.
The ban, aimed at reducing pollution from trucking coal, has put Tianjin port 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 dust down.
(Writing by Jessie Jia Editing by Harry Huo)
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