NINGBO, Zhejiang, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- China's maritime rescue services staged their biggest ever exercise in the East China Sea Friday to test rescue capabilities and security for the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.
The exercise, jointly held by the Ministry of Transport and east China's Zhejiang Province, involved 35 ships, three aircraft and more than 1,000 personnel, said He Yipei, deputy general director of the exercise and deputy director of the Zhejiang Maritime Safety Administration.
The exercise began at 9 a.m. off the coast of Ningbo and lasted about an hour.
The exercise simulated a collision between a passenger ship carrying 390 people and a cargo vessel loaded with chemicals, resulting in a fire on the passenger ship and a benzene leak.
Rescuers transferred the people in danger, treated those overcome by fumes, controlled the chemical leak, searched for people in the water, put out the fire and evacuated 16,000 people living along the coast in the area of the exercise.
Only one passenger "died" in the "accident."
"The exercise was successful," said Xu Zuyuan, Vice Minister of Transport and director of the China Maritime Search and Rescue Center.
"It displayed the achievements of China's maritime rescue services over the past six decades, tested their rescue capabilities and helped improve their rescue skills," he said.
He said the exercise also tested the country's maritime security for the Shanghai World Expo in 2010, which is expected to attract 70 million visitors from next May 1 to Oct. 31.
The exercise site was Fodu harbor, at Ningbo-Zhoushan Port.
"It is not only one of the busiest navigation channels in the world, but also an area that sees frequent maritime accidents and chemical leakages. That is why we choose this area," He said.
Last year, the Ningbo-Zhoushan Port ranked second in the world in terms of cargo throughput, with 521 million tonnes, and eighth in container throughput, at 10.923 million TEUs.
According to the Zhejiang Provincial Maritime Search and RescueCenter,local maritime rescue services handled 85 accidents off thecoast of Zhejiang in the first half and saved 1,153 people. Almost 60 people died or were missing in the period.
Nationwide, 882 sea accidents were reported in the first half and almost 9,000 people required rescue, according to the China Maritime Search and Rescue Center.
"The handling of accidents at sea can demonstrate a nation's maritime technologies, coordination abilities and construction of maritime security forces," said Liu Gongchen, general counsel of the exercise and chief inspector of safety with the Ministry of Transport.
"Although there is still a gap in maritime rescue services between China and advanced countries, we are confident that we cancatch up," he said.
(Writing by Xinhua writer Li Jianmin in Beijing, Reporting by Xinhua correspondents Zhang Ran, Feng Yuan and Zhang Daosheng)