03 February 1997 00:00 [Source: ACN]
CHINA and Taiwan took a small but significant step towards direct sea-links during a meeting in Hong Kong late last month.
Shipping executives and officials from both sides agreed that Taiwan shippers can begin to sail to the selected Chinese ports of Xiamen and Fuzhou if they obtain approval from both sides. If all goes well, ships could begin plying the straits regularly by April.
The Taiwan Straits Shipping Association (TSSA) hailed the meeting as an important opportunity for representatives from both sides to bridge the gulf between them. 'Both sides have always had their own regulations on direct shipping, but this is the first time we have tried to work on those points we have in common,' a TSSA official said.
In January, Taiwan took the 48-year-old impasse a step closer to resolution by announcing that ships passing through a third port are no longer required to unload their cargoes en route between China and Taiwan. Cargoes, however, must still be carried on foreign-registered vessels (ACN 20 Jan, p7).
Industry observers said the new accord, which says shipping associations from both sides are to notarise Taiwan shippers' applications to sail to the mainland ports of Fuzhou and Xiamen, suggests that both governments may be tryingto disengage themselves from the issue as far as they can.
'We were never involved in the talks,' said a senior specialist from Taiwan's Ministry of Transport and Communications.
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