Direct cross-strait links in place
The China Post news staff Monday, December 15, 2008, 1:40 pm TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Two direct links between Taiwan and China will be set in place today to save at least NT$30 billion (U$90 million) a year in flight costs and maritime shipping.
President Ma Ying-jeou will mark Taiwan's inaugural direct voyage across the Taiwan Strait at Kaohsiung, which is expected to stop its fast decline in container haulage.
He will attend a ceremony marking the sailing of the M.S. Limin of the Evergreen Shipping Company for Tianjin this morning.
Premier Liu Chao-shiuan will visit Keelung to speak at a ceremony marking the first voyages to be launched by four shipping firms, including Wan Hai and Yang Ming.
A Yang Ming ship will set sail from Keelung this morning for Shanghai.
Lien Chan, honorary Kuomintang chairman, left for Tianjin yesterday to mark the opening of direct cross-strait voyages from the Chinese side today.
Direct maritime shipping was made possible under one of the four agreements signed in Taipei on November 4 between P.K. Chiang, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation, and his Chinese counterpart Chen Yunlin.
Chen came to Taipei on November 3 on a historic four-day visit. He also met with President Ma before departing for Beijing.
Under the direct shipping agreement, which went into effect on December 7, Taiwan opened up 11 seaports, including Keelung and Kaohsiung.
All shipping between Taiwan and China had to be rerouted through Ishigaki-jima, one of the Okinawa Islands. Direct shipping cuts the cost of shipment by NT$1.2 billion a year.
Also to be opened to direct shipping are the ports at Wuchi near Taichung, Hualien on east Taiwan, Putai and Mailiao. Makung on the Pescadores will also serve direct shipping freighters as well as two ports each on the offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu.
Aside from Kaohsiung, the big beneficiaries of the new agreement are Keelung, the second largest port in Taiwan; Mailio where a large petrochemical plant is located; and Hualien, which expects a huge inflow of Chinese tourists from across the strait.
Wuchi Harbor will receive most of the gravel needed by Taiwan's construction industry from China.
On the other side, China opens up 63 harbors, including Tianjin, Shanghai, Dairen, Qingdao, Shanghai, Fuzhou, Quanzhou, Amoy (Xiamen), Swatow, Guangzhou, Nanjing, and Wuhan.
Exporters in Taiwan can now sell fruit, produce and fish in China through direct shipping to these ports, while raw material from China reach Taiwan in a much reduced time.
Even more benefits are expected from the daily direct charter flights, made available under another agreement Chen signed with Chiang in Taipei.
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