XIAMEN - The Chinese mainland will open five more ports for direct shipping service with Taiwan, bringing the total such ports to 68, a mainland transport official said Saturday.
The ports to be opened are in the provinces of Anhui, Shandong and Zhejiang, said Song Dexing, director of the Water Transport Department with the Ministry of Transport, at a round table meeting on direct shipping across the Taiwan Straits.
On November 4 last year, the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) signed in Taipei protocols on direct shipping, air transport and postal services, which allowed regular civilian planes and ships to directly cross the Taiwan Straits. On December 15, the "three direct links" were formally launched, ending a 59-year ban in this regard.
Under the earlier agreement, the mainland will open 63 ports to Taiwan ships while Taiwan will open 11, and the two sides might increase the number of ports based on a "developing situation."
At Saturday's meeting, Song also announced eight other moves the mainland will take to further boost the cross-Straits direct shipping, such as facilitating sandstone transport, exemption of some taxes, establishment of representatives offices and enhancing maritime safety.
The round table meeting was held as one of the 18 activities for the Straits Forum that opens Saturday evening in the mainland city Xiamen, which faces Taiwan across sea. About 150 participants from both sides attended the meeting.
The forum, to run until May 22, features 18 activities including the centerpiece conference, a trade fair, a cultural week, a tourism forum and a seminar on traditional Chinese medicine. It will be co-hosted by Fuzhou, Quanzhou and Putian, three cities in southeastern China's Fujian Province.
The week-long Straits Forum expects more than 8,000 Taiwan guests, including mayors and magistrates of 25 Taiwan cities and counties as well as heads of key trade organizations on the island.