The State Council, China's cabinet, has set July 11 as Maritime Day beginning this year, said Minister of Communications Zhang Chunxian on Tuesday.
It marks the 600th anniversary of the ocean voyages of Zheng He, the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) navigator, who, according to researchers, led Chinese fleets on seven ocean voyages as far as America 600 years ago.
Zhang said the day would enhance the Chinese people's awareness of the importance of navigation and the sea, and promote its development as well as that of maritime business.
He added that the move honors China's commitment to the International Maritime Organization, of which it is a member.
Xu Zuyuan, vice minister of communications, said the day would be a national celebration that would need the participation of all citizens.
The theme of this year's Maritime Day will be "Love the motherland, be good friends with neighboring countries and navigate scientifically."
China now has 210,000 ships of more than 86 million dead weight tons, ranking fourth in the world. Some 90 percent of China's foreign trade is done by its ocean-going fleets.
(Xinhua News Agency May 25, 2005)