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Cross-Straits shipping, travel all smooth sailing

By Sun Li in Xiamen, Fujian ( China Daily )

Updated: 2012-10-09

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Sea transport between the mainland and Taiwan has developed steadily despite a sluggish world economy, shipping industry players said at a forum of the World Shipping (China) Summit 2012.

The forum opened on Sept 19 Wednesday in Xiamen, East China's Fujian province, and runs through Sept 21.

Song Dexing, director of the water transport department of the Ministry of Transport, said the number of passengers traveling by sea between the mainland and Taiwan markedly increased in the first half of this year.

According to the ministry, 840,000 trips were made on ships crossing the Taiwan Straits in the first half, a rise of 13.6 percent from a year earlier.

Travelers from the mainland made 91,000 trips by boat to Taiwan in the period, up 106 percent from a year ago. More than 16,800 tourists made trips in the peak season of July.

Trips made from Fujian province's coastal areas to Taiwan's Kinmen, Penghu and Matzu islands increased 7.6 percent to 749,000 in the first six months, statistics show.

Goods transportation on the ports of both sides also went up at a steady pace, Song said.

In the first half, the throughput at major mainland ports was 4.74 billion metric tons, up 7.2 percent year-on-year, according to data released by the Ministry of Transport.

In Taiwan, Kaohsiung port moved a total of 4.86 million twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEU, amarginal increase from the 4.79 million TEU in the same period of 2011.

Because of the ministry's efforts to restrict route deviation, cross-Straits goods transport via a third destination dropped 68 percent from a year earlier to 1.95 million tons in the period, which has boosted direct shipping transport across the Straits and helped reduce costs and emissions.

According to a recent evaluation by the ministry, the cross-Straits transportation structure has improved, as high-value goods shipment continued to grow. Direct delivery of liquid chemical products across the Straits jumped 31 percent year-on-year to 1.35 million tons in the first six months.

Ports for direct cross-Straits transport have jumped to 83 since direct shipping between the mainlandand Taiwan started in 2008. In July 2011, the ministry issued measures to restrict deviation to encourage direct transport.

The surge in cross-Straits travel can partially be attributed to the launch of the night ferry service between Xiamen and Taiwan's Kinmen, said Cai Liangya, director of the Xiamen Port Authority.

As the night ferry service, on a trail basis that started in July, allowed people to come and back to the two places in one day, more people traveled across the Straits, Cai said.

The operation of Haixia, a high-speed passenger ferry linking the city of Taichung in Taiwan and Pingtan county in Fujian since November, also helped with the tourist boom across the Straits, he said.

On average, more than 10,000 people have traveled on Haixia very month since April. The operator increased the ferry service to four times a week from June to August.

The development of the cross-Straits sea transport is related to the two sides' establishing acooperation mechanism for maritime issues such as transportation, rescue and fighting pollution, said the Ministry of Transport's Song.

Many ports on the mainland have signed agreements with Taiwan harbors to facilitate transport and logistics. Concerning the ongoing construction of the Southeast China International Shipping Center,Xiamen's port may play a crucial role in initiating a new era of the cross-Straits sea transport, said Chen Dingyu, general manager of Xiamen Port Holding Group Co Ltd.

Xiamen Shipping Exchange, an important supportive project of the Southeast China International Shipping Center package, has been launched in June, mainly providing services of ship transaction and leasing, port cargo transaction, industry talent communication, and information release.

As planned, the construction work for the headquarters of the Southeast China International Shipping Center will begin by the end of this year. The building is expected to be fully operational before 2016.