Taiwan launches first cruise service with China

Monday, 29 June 2009, 02:30 Hrs
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Taipei: A Taiwan company launched a cruise service with China Sunday, making it the first such cross-strait service in 60 years.

With a band playing and dragon dance performing on shore, the 2,292-tonne Ocean Lala set sail from the Taichung Harbour for Xiamen, China, carrying 179 passengers and 23 crew.

The voyage across the Taiwan Strait takes only four-and-a-half-hours, but it took Taiwan and China 60 years to ease tension and for Taipei to agree to lift the ban on sea links with the mainland.

The Excalibur International Marine Corp, operator of the cruise service, said that in the initial stage, the Taichung-Xianmen cruise is an irregular service chartered by travel agencies.

"Eventually it will become a regular cruise service going not only to Xiamen, but also to other Chinese ports like Fuzhou and Shanghai," said Han Chih-yang, Excalibur's deputy manager.

"We are full of confidence for the future of cross-strait tourism, so we are seeking to buy two larger ships for launching regular cross-strait service," he said.

Currently, Taiwan and China allow only Taiwanese and Chinese companies to offer cross-strait cruise. But one foreign shipping line, the Hong Kong-based Star Cruises, which is the leading cruise line in Asia-Pacific, has applied to launch services.

Taiwan and China have been split since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, but tensions began to ease in the late 1980s.

Cross-strait exchanges picked up momentum only after Ma Ying-jeou from the China-friendly Chinese Nationalist Party became president in May 2008.

Last November, Taipei and Beijing agreed to launch sea links and daily charter flights which will be expanded to regular flights in August.
Source: IANS
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