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China caps vessel permits for direct shipping to Taiwan

Beijing: The Chinese Ministry of transport has stated that only 90 mainland ships will be able to get government approval for direct trips across the Taiwan Strait, writes Chinaview. "The quota was based on our research on the trade, passenger transport and current shipping business conditions ... under the principle of equal participation and orderly competition," the ministry said in a press release. It also issued a circular on the implementation of direct shipping, scheduled to start on Monday.

The ministry is still processing applications from shipping firms, said an official who declined to be identified. Among other conditions, shipping firms must observe "fair competition," meaning they can't offer artificially low rates to win business.

Shipping companies from both sides are allowed to set up branches on the other side, said the circular.

On Monday, ships will set off from six ports in the mainland and two harbors in Taiwan. These will be the first direct sailings across the narrow strait since the 1949 split. Up to now, ships have had to dock at a third harbor outside the Strait during their journey.

The mainland will open 48 sea ports and 15 river facilities, while Taiwan will open 11 harbors for direct shipping, under an agreement reached in early November.  [12/12/08]

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