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Excited shipping industry awaits cross-Straits direct transport
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Chinese mainland's shipping industry awaited the upcoming direct transport across the Taiwan Straits in excitement and high expectation that the move would further boost trade and economic integration between the two sides.

The mainland and Taiwan would reciprocally allow civilian planes and ships to directly cross the Straits from Monday, ending a situation since 1949 that air and shipping transport between the two sides had to transfer through a third place.

Xu Lirong, executive vice president of the China Ocean Shipping Group Company (COSCO), said the cost of the company's freight business related to the cross-Straits trade would drop by 30 percent thanks to the direct shipping.

"Currently the additional cost for a container vessel traveling through a third place is as high as one million U.S. dollars for one year," he told Xinhua on Saturday.

The mainland's shipping and logistics giant currently handles 200,000 standard containers between the two sides every year. It also collaborates with Taiwan shipping companies such as Evergreen and Yang Ming in international service.

"Direct shipping will undoubtedly bring new vigor to economic and trade ties between the mainland and Taiwan, which has been very close in recent years," he said.

The mainland has been the largest trading partner of Taiwan since 2003, with annual trading volume surpassing 100 billion U.S. dollars.

Under this circumstance, direct shipping would help the two sides reduce the shipping time by 110,000 hours and transportation costs by 100 million U.S. dollars each year, said Hu Hanxiang, chairman of the executive council of the mainland-based Federation for Shipping Cooperation Across the Taiwan Straits.

In accordance with a historic agreement signed by the two sides last month, the mainland will open 48 sea ports and 15 river facilities, while Taiwan will open 11 harbors for direct shipping.

Tong Mengda, chief economist of the Ningbo Port Corporation in east China's Zhejiang Province, said he was very optimistic on prospect of the direct shipping.

"Direct shipping will obviously increase cargo volumes in Ningbo Port because the average time for voyage between Ningbo and Taiwan will be shortened to about 10 hours from 25 hours," he told Xinhua.

"This will definitely improve the efficiency of logistic service and manufacturing sectors of the two sides while lowering the cost," said Hu. "It is especially significant as the mainland and Taiwan join hands to cope with the global economic downturn at present."

(Xinhua News Agency December 14, 2008)

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