BEIJING, Feb. 8 (Xinhuanet) -- China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company (COSCO), China's leading shipping company, will become a long-term partner of the country's largest oil importer -- China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec).
The two giant companies signed a contract on Wednesday, through which COSCO will be responsible for shipping imported oil for Sinopec.
The shipping company hopes to import 6 million tons in 2006 and with the goal of reaching 30 million tons in the coming years, according to the contract.
Economic observers said the contract indicates a progress in China's independence in transporting imported oil, which will be of great importance to ensure the security of long-distance oil transport.
For years, China has depended mainly on foreign shipping companies from Japan and the Republic of Korea to ship its imported oil.
The increase in demand for oil in China has meant an increase in oil imports in recent years. To meet the demand, China has started to establish a domestic shipping fleet to secure the safety of imported oil transport.
Wei Jiafu, president of COSCO, said the two companies agreed to cooperate in oil supply and strengthen cooperation in the fuel market to ensure enough fuel supply for COSCO's fleet.
Sinopec is China's largest oil producer and supplier, and the country's largest oil importer.
Founded in 1961, COSCO now operates a variety of merchant vessels and boasts a fleet of some 600 ships, the world's second largest transport capacity.
In 2005, COSCO transported over 300 million tons of cargo for its domestic and overseas clients, scoring a profit of 20 billion yuan (2.5 billion U.S. dollars).