Taiwan, China to launch direct shipping next week

Taiwan, China to launch direct shipping next week Taipei  - Taiwan and China are making preparations to launch direct shipping next week, ending the five-decade ban imposed by Taipei in 1949 at the end of the Chinese civil war, harbour officials and media reports said Monday.

The Transport Ministry said that it would announce details of the launch after the parliament passes the pact on direct shipping, signed in Taipei on November 4.

According to the pact, direct shipping should start on December 15.

"As soon as the parliament has passed the direct shipping pact, we will announce the details, including whether foreign ships can join the direct shipping," a ministry official told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, asking not to be named.

Officials of Taiwan's three main ports - Kaohsiung, Taichung and Keelung - said it was up to shipping firms to decide when to launch direct shipping and the ports would make arrangements accordingly.

According to the Commercial Times, Chinese ports plan to launch direct shipping with Taiwan between December 13-18. A container ship from the China Ocean Shipping Co (COSCO) will sail from Tianjin port to Kaohsiung on December 15, with a second COSCO ship arriving at Kaohsiung on December 18.

"COSCO's Taiwan company will hold a welcome ceremony for the first ship's arrival," Lin Wen-shan, head of the Kaohsiung Harbour's press office, told dpa.

The China Shipping Container Lines Co Ltd (CSCL) plans to launch direct shipping with Taiwan on December 15 by dispatching a container ship from Shanghai to Kaohsiung, the Commercial Times said.

The Chinese government has instructed the ports of Shanghai, Dalian, Qingdao, Tianjin, Xiamen, Fuzhou and Taicang to hold ceremonies launching direct shipping with Taiwan, the daily said.

Taiwan's Yang Ming Marine shipping company has invited Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou to attend the firm's direct shipping ceremony, it added.

Taiwan and China split at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. Since then, Taiwan has banned direct sea, air and trade links with China.

Because of the bans, many foreign shipping lines and cruise companies have dropped Taiwan from their international routes, dealing a heavy blow to the country's exports and tourism.

But on June 4, Taiwan and China signed pacts on direct sea and postal links, daily charter flights and food safety.

When the pacts are passed by Taiwan's parliament, Taiwanese and Chinese ships will be allowed to cross the Taiwan Strait while the weekend charter flights between the two countries, launched on July 4, will be replaced by daily flights. (dpa)