Last Updated: 2017-04-17
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An NNN-Xinhua Special Report by Yan Liang & Zheng Kaijun

SHANGHAI, April 17 (NNN-XINHUA) -- One of the most technically-advanced ships in the world set sail from here Sunday to retrace the oldest maritime route which linked China with the rest of the world.

The M,V. COSCO Netherlands left the Yangshan Deep Water Port at 7 pm local time (1100 hours UTC, in Shanghai, the world's largest cargo port, and is scheduled to dock in the port of Ningbo in eastern China, Singapore, the Suez Canal, Pireaus port in Greece, Rotterdam of the Netherlands, Hamburg in Germany, and Antwerp, Belgium, in its about 40-day voyage.

Products with internationally well-known brands, like Hewlett-Packard (HP) computers, Sony LCD monitors, Hisense TV sets, Haier refrigerators, automobile spare parts and bicycles, assembled or made in China, are on board for export to northwestern European and other countries.

The M.V. COSCO Netherland, an oceangoing container vessel of more than 150 tonnes, is 366-metre long, 51.2-metre wide and 67-metre high, and can carry up to 13,386 TEUs (20 foot equivalent units). It was manufactured by China's Nantong COSCO KHI Ship Engineering Co., Ltd. in 2013.

China COSCO Shipping Corporation Limited, the owner of the M.V. COSCO Netherlands, serves more than 100 routes globally, including those from the Far East to northwestern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Africa, as well as regional feeder services within Europe and South East Asia nations.

Part of the route which the M.V.COSCO Netherlands is travelling overlaps the ancient Maritime Silk Road, whose history can be traced back to ancient times.

Yao Wei, a 30-year-old engine room engine man from Jiangsu Province, on boarded the M.V. COSCO Netherlands for the first time, told Xinhua: "I am very much looking forward to this new voyage, from history to reality, from China to Europe. It must be very impressive."

The ancient Maritime Silk Road was a crucial conduit for trade and cultural exchange between China's southeastern coastal regions and countries in South East Asia, Africa and Europe.

It was first used in the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 B.C.-220 A.D.), developed from the Three Kingdoms Period to the Sui Dynasty (220-618 A.D.), flourished in the Tang and Song Dynasties (618-1279 A.D.), and fell into decline in the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911 A.D.).

Through this sea route, silk, tea and chinaware were exported, while spices and rare treasures like precious stones were brought to China.

During the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368 A.D.), renowned Italian traveller and explorer Marco Polo headed for China along the overland Silk Road. After living in China for 17 years, he left from Quanzhou, a coastal city in southeastern China's Fujian Province, one of the starting points of the ancient Maritime Silk Road for a voyage home.

Marco Polo's remarks and memories of China were recorded in the book, the Travels of Marco Polo, which described China's politics, economy, culture and prosperity in detail at that time.

As ancient sea-borne trade, driven by monsoons and ocean currents, gave way to today's transoceanic trade via container freighters between China and Europe, the Maritime Silk Road has also witnessed the growth of cultural exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations.

Now, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, or together the Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to build an even stronger trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes and promoting common development among all countries involved.

In May this year, China will host the Belt and Road Forum for International Co-operation in Beijing, during which participants will have an opportunity to explore co-operation opportunities, build co-operation platforms and share the outcomes of co-operation. -- NNN-XINHUA