Tue, Dec 16, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Direct shipping links, mail and flights launched

STAFF REPORTERS , By Meggie Lu, Rich Chang and Shih Hsiu-chuan

Direct cross-strait flights, shipping and mail services were launched yesterday, with the first flight to China taking off from Taipei at 8am.

TransAsia Airways flight GE332 left Taipei Songshan Airport with 144 passengers and landed in Shanghai at 9:50am.

China’s first direct flight to Taiwan was a Shenzhen Airlines plane that arrived at Songshan Airport at 8:45am.

TransAsia was the only carrier offering direct flights from Songshan airport to destinations in China. China Airlines and Eva Airways will fly aircraft with twice the capacity out of Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

Mail will arrive on average one day earlier than before, Chunghwa Post Co deputy general manager Chen Tsi-te (陳賜得) said. Chen said the company had signed contracts with China Airlines and Eva Airways to transport parcels on direct flights.

Meanwhile, at Kaohsiung Harbor, direct shipping links got underway at 10am, when the Uni-Adroit, a full-container ship owned and operated by Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine Corp, set sail for Tianjin.

Two cargo ships also departed Tianjin and were scheduled to arrive at Kaohsiung and Keelung ports within 48 hours — cutting an estimated 18 hours off the journey.

Presiding over the launch ceremony in Kaohsiung, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said he was pleased about the establishment of the links, adding that he had published a white paper on direct air and shipping links 16 years ago when he was vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).

Ma said he was satisfied that air and shipping transport links across the Taiwan Strait had been launched only six months and 15 days into his administration.

“The opening of direct air and shipping links means the two sides are no longer hostile toward each other and are willing to replace confrontation with dialogue and conflict with reconciliation,” he said.

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) and Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) attended an inauguration ceremony at Keelung Harbor, where container vessels from Wan Lai Lines Ltd, Yang Ming Group, Taiwan Navigation Co and the China-based Fujian Huarong Marine Shipping Co were scheduled to leave for China.

The companies launched the vessels at around 10:35am after the Keelung Harbor Bureau released balloons and boats anchored next to each container vessel shot water into the air to celebrate.

“I can’t describe how grateful and joyful I am to witness these four container vessels turning a new page in the country’s history,” Liu said at the ceremony.

Direct cross-strait shipping will benefit not only China-based Taiwanese businesses and shipping companies, but also the public at large, Liu said.

“For passengers, if you board a vessel at 8pm, you will be in mainland China when you wake up the next morning. [It will] also cut costs for businesses. A 20,000-tonne cargo ship will save around NT$200,000 per trip from Keelung to any port in China’s Fujian Province,” Liu said.

Liu said direct shipping would also help businesses tap into the Chinese market.

“Transporting Taiwanese fruit and seafood to China via direct shipping will be faster. I believe that Taiwanese food products will be very popular in mainland China, especially after the contaminated milk food [scandal],” Liu said.

On regulations that will see ships remove their national flags before anchoring at their destination, Liu said: “Both sides of the Strait agreed to remove their flags when vessels enter the territory of the other side to put aside political disputes,” Lai said.

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