A long, loud blast from the Quanzhou's ship's horn announced the inauguration of a new direct shipping route between the city Quanzhou in southeastern Fujian Province and Jinmen in Taiwan.
The Ship New Golden Dragon on a trial voyage.
This is the third direct shipping route linking the Chinese mainland and the region of Taiwan. The other routes between Xiamen-Jinmen and Mawei-Mazu opened in 2001.
More than 130 Taiwan business people and tourists were the first passengers on the Quanzhou, which left the dock of Shijing Port for Jinmen at 9:40 AM on Thursday to begin its maiden voyage on the new route.
Just over an hour later, the Ship New Golden Dragon carrying 200 Taiwanese left Jinmen port and arrived at Quanzhou at 12:05 AM.
The opening of the new route, devoted to passenger traffic, will not only tighten the economic ties across the Taiwan Strait, but also opens a door to direct shipping services between the Chinese mainland and the main island of Taiwan, said He Shaochuan, deputy director of the Subcommittee for Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan Compatriots and Overseas Chinese under the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
"There are only 14 nautical miles between the ports of Shijing and Jinmen and so many Taiwan people have been doing business in Quanzhou. The new route should have opened years earlier," said Li Chao-shui, captain of the Ship Quanzhou.
Chen Cheng-nan, who opened a porcelain factory at Quanzhou in 1992, came to see the Quanzhou cast off.
"I have waited for the opening of the new route for more than a decade and finally the dream has come true," said Chen, who is also former chairman of the Taiwan business people association in Quanzhou.
The ferries will make the hour-long voyage between Quanzhou and Jinmen ports twice a day, according to the Cosco Kinxin Marine Transport Corporation, which operates the ferries.
The direct shipping routes have become so-called golden traffic lines between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan. As of Aprilmore than 1.4 million passengers and 3.96 million tons of freight had been transported since the other two direct across-Straits shipping routes opened in 2001.
(Xinhua News Agency June 9, 2006)