Taiwan and China agree to new form of shipping service

TRANSPORTATION::The roll-on/roll-off system means that vehicles and containers can be driven onto ships, allowing for faster disembarkation

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Mon, May 06, 2013 - Page 1

Taiwan and China have agreed to launch a roll-on/roll-off (RORO) shipping service across the Taiwan Strait following a meeting of transportation officials in Beijing at the end of last month, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said yesterday.

RORO ships are designed to carry cars, freight containers or trailers driven on and off the ship on their own wheels.

Maritime and Port Bureau Director-General Chi Wen-jong (祁文中) was the nation’s chief representative in the meeting in Beijing. Chinese Water Transportation Bureau Director Song Dexing (宋德星) lead the Chinese delegation.

The ministry said that the RORO system allows cars, trucks and trailers to leave the harbor soon after reaching the destination, saving time spent unloading goods and accelerating the delivery of goods.

The ministry cited as an example the ferry service between Taipei and Pingtan (平潭) in China’s Fujian Province, which is about a two-and-a-half-hour journey.

The time that a freight container spends on the docks after arrival could be greatly reduced if the freight containers are allowed to be use on RORO ships, the ministry added.

However, the ministry said that both sides need to address several issues, including how they would deal with vehicle registration plates and drivers’ licenses.

The ministry said it aims to put containers and bearing brackets on the RORO ships during the initial stage, adding that goods would be transported by tractors upon reaching their destination.

Currently, the cross-strait ferry service operating between Pingtan and Taichung, Hauxiahao (海峽號), already uses a RORO ship to carry passengers. However, it has yet to allow cargo trucks or trailers to be driven on the ship.

In addition to changing the regulations on RORO ships, the negotiations also resulted in an agreement to allow international freighters and flag-of-convenience ships registered in Taiwan or China to carry trans-shipment goods when sailing to the northern coastal provinces of China, if each voyage carries no more than 200 twenty foot equivalent units.

Based on the agreement, businesses registered in Taiwan or China can rent international cruise liners for charter services with approval from the governments of both sides.

The cruise liners would only be allowed to dock at ports open for cross-strait shipping services and would not not allowed to offer regular services across the Taiwan Strait.

Meanwhile, both sides agreed that the China Corporation Register of Shipping, a non-profit private agency that inspects and classifies Taiwanese ships, could establish offices in China. The same rule applies to the China Classification Society, the group that classifies ships in China.

According to the ministry, China promised to work toward launching a shipping service between Matsu and the Huangqi Peninsula in Fujian Province.