Ships resume Taiwan routes even as China drills remain unclear


Taiwan Navy ships are seen at the port in Keelung, Taiwan on Aug 6, 2022. - Reuters

TAIPEI (Bloomberg): Shipping in the Taiwan Strait showed signs of returning to normal, despite a lack of clarity over whether China’s military exercises around the island have ended.

More than 30 vessels have transited through China’s drill zone south of Taiwan’s main port since Sunday (Aug 7) according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg, with the latest ship positions showing four of the total six zones being traversed.

Shipping in the Taiwan Strait, a key route for supply chains and commodities, has faced uncertainty and delays since Beijing began its most provocative military drills in decades in the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan last week. Some shipowners barred their vessels from transiting the strait, while others navigated around the drill zones.

Vessels had also been hesitant about approaching the major port of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan, seeking to avoid the large drill zone located just offshore. Ships are now starting to resume their original routes.

The supertanker Barakah, laden with crude oil from the Middle East, was moored off Kaohsiung on Monday after last week diverting to the Sha Lung port at the northern end of the island, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Crude tanker Ghinah is also en route to Kaohsiung after changing its route to Sha Lung.

Two liquefied natural gas vessels also arrived at ports in Taiwan on Monday after idling off the coast for a few days, according to the data.

The military exercises were scheduled to be completed on Sunday, but it’s unclear whether the drills have ended. There has been no official announcement, and Hu Xijin, former editor of the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper, said they had been extended.

China also publicised drills in other areas along its coast, including live-weapon firing from Aug 6-15 in the southern part of the Yellow Sea separating the mainland from the Korean Peninsula -- a frequent area for exercises.

The Maritime Safety Administration also said military exercises will take place in parts of the Bohai Sea in the north for a month from Aug. 8, and warned ships to avoid entering the area. Drills were also held in that region around this time last year.

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