KUNMING, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- The international shipping route on a key river running through China and southeast Asia is busy as usual, with boatmen wasting no time in loading and unloading cargo from ships.
Lancang River originates in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau in the southwest of China. It is called Mekong River once it flows through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea.
Over 326 million people live along the 4,880-km-long waterway, which flows through an area of more than 795,000 square kilometers.
Chinese Captain Ran Mujiang sails his boat between Guanlei Port in Yunnan Province and Chiang Saen Port in Thailand. A single trip takes him nine hours.
He has fertilizer, tea and pomegranates loaded on his ship when he departs from China, and takes back rubber and dried fruits on the return trip.
"I've been sailing on the river for over 20 years. Trade along the river is developing very fast," he says.
In 2016, about 97,000 tonnes of cargo were transported through Guanlei Port, a year-on-year increase of 45.9 percent.
Now the river can accommodate ships weighing up to 420 tonnes, while in the past it could only allow boats weighing less than 50 tonnes.
"With growing inter-government cooperation, sailing along the river has become much safer," Ran says.
On Friday, the third Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) foreign ministers' meeting will be held in Dali, Yunnan. The six countries along the river officially started the LMC in March 2016.
"With the joint efforts of the six sides, Lancang-Mekong Cooperation has become one of the most lively sub-regional mechanisms, and its potential is great," says Huang Xilian, deputy head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Department of Asian Affairs, Thursday. "It is evident that the Lancang-Mekong cooperation is developing very fast, and the six countries need to review the development in the last two years to lay solid foundation for future cooperation."
"The three pillars of the LMC -- political and safety, economic and sustainable development, social and cultural -- fit with the foundation of ASEAN community building," says Lu Guangsheng, professor with Yunnan University. "The LMC will help deepen regional cooperation and can become a good example of China building a community with shared future with Lancang-Mekong countries."