As a container vessel from Shanghai was berthed at an anchorage ground along the Yangtze River, China’s longest watercourse, in Yichang, central China’s Hubei province, Xi Yingjun, captain of the vessel, submitted a list of pollutants generated by the crew members in nearly 10 days, including 2.5 cubic meters of domestic sewage, on a mobile app.
Then the list was received by Zhang Shouzhi, captain of a ship responsible for receiving the pollutants, who later commanded his crew to pilot the ship to a designated area to pick up the garbage.
Ten minutes later, the two vessels were berthed shoulder to shoulder, and the domestic sewage was pumped to Zhang’s ship, after which both captains received an electronic bill indicating the time and transfer volume on their mobile phones.
The Yichang section of the Yangtze River stretches 232 kilometers and is passed by around 60,000 vessels each year. Therefore, it’s not rare to see a vast number of vessels anchored there waiting for inspection before passing ship locks.
In order to save time and reduce cost, most ships choose to have their pollutants transferred while they are waiting for inspection, according to Hu Jixue, head of a law enforcement detachment for waterway transport in Yichang.
“Vessels often spend a long time in the section due to the huge traffic, and the handover, transfer and disposal of pollutants are a big headache for us,” Hu told People’s Daily.
Apart from domestic sewage, vessels also produce residential waste and oily wastewater, the disposal of which is supervised by different regulators, for example, the housing and urban-rural development bureau, urban management law-enforcement bureau, and environmental authority, Hu said.
In addition, ships and ports are administered separately by the department of maritime affairs and transport department, which made it even more difficult to efficiently and properly remove and dispose pollutants from passing vessels, he said.
“Where do pollutants come from and where will they be taken? No one could explain it clearly because of the lack of communication in the past,” Hu added.
In 2019, Jingxiaoyi, which literally means “a clean Yichang” in Chinese, a collaborative governance information system for addressing pollutants from ships was launched by Yichang. Comprising a mini-program on WeChat, a backend database, and a big display screen, the system is both an instrument for receiving, transferring, and disposing pollutants from vessels and an open platform for collaborative supervision and control among different authorities.
After Zhang once again opened the mini-program at noon and submitted an application to transfer the domestic sewage he received from Xi’s container vessel, the sewage pump on his ship was connected to a sanitary sewer on the riverbank under the operation of Yang Hongxin, a dispatcher at a wharf where received pollutants are transferred. Then the sewage entered the municipal sewage pipe network for bio-safety disposal.
Meanwhile, the whole process of the transfer was displayed in real time on the big screen of an intelligent management center of Yichang’s bureau of transport, so that the whereabouts of the pollutants are totally trackable for supervisory and regulatory authorities.
“Domestic wastewater is transferred by the wharf before being directly discharged into the municipal sewage network. Domestic solid waste is taken care of by the environmental authority, which transfers it to solid waste treatment center by sanitation vehicles. And oily wastewater is taken to oil refineries by oil tank trucks after pretreatment at the wharf,” introduced Li Xian, an executive with the intelligent management center.
The mini-program has broken the information barriers between supervisory and regulatory authorities, thus enabling closed-loop management of the whole process, he added.
According to Li, as of April 27, 2021, a total of 111,885 batches of pollutants had been transferred on the Yichang section of the Yangtze River under the assistance of Jingxiaoyi since November 2019, when the system was launched, including 2,002.7 tonnes of domestic solid waste, 81,747.5 cubic meters of domestic wastewater, and 5,408.3 cubic meters of oily wastewater.
It is learned that the handover, transfer, and disposal of domestic solid waste and domestic wastewater are free services.