Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

China: Shipping Across Taiwan Straits

(Dec. 30, 2008) On December 12, 2008, the China Maritime Safety Administration (CMSA) issued Interim Measures on Supervision and Administration of Direct Shipping Vessels across the Taiwan Straits (the Measures). Designed to promote the recently approved, direct trade between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan, the Measures were effective as of December 15. (CMSA Issuing the Measures on Supervision and Administration of Direct Shipping Vessels across the Taiwan Straits, 47 ISINO-LAW (Dec. 8-14, 2008), via email from [email protected].)

The Measures apply to ships involved in direct transport of passengers and cargo between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan and to persons and administrative units involved in the transport. They define a “direct shipping vessel” as one that engages in direct maritime transport across the Taiwan Straits, with the capital of both sides of the Straits, and that is registered on both sides. Shipping across the Straits will be permitted under a licensing system. Direct shipping vessels may be managed by enterprises that have received a “License for Water Transport Across the Taiwan Straits” (License); such vessels will be given an “Operation Certificate for Vessels Across the Taiwan Straits (Straits Certificate).” (Id.)

When entering a port on the mainland, direct shipping vessels must further file applications with a maritime administrative unit. They will be given permission to enter following inspection of a number of documents the vessel must have, including a registration certificate; an inspection certificate; a certificate of crew member eligibility; a “minimum safe manning certificate” the License; the Straits Certificate; and, in the case of ships carrying such goods, a dangerous goods declaration. Those attempting to engage in the cross-Straits trade without permission will not be permitted to enter or exit the relevant ports. Direct shipping vessels must have crews familiar with emergency requirements of ports for such situations as typhoons, accidents, or pollution incidents. (Id.)

The maritime administrative authorities will be empowered to order a ship to correct any of the following conditions: lack of seaworthiness; lack of proper certificates; incomplete procedures following a water traffic accident or pollution incident; or failure to make required payments and to provide an appropriate guarantor. (Id.)

Direct shipping between Taiwan and the mainland, as well as airline service, began on December 15, and was hailed by Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou as a move toward reconciliation across the Straits. He stated, “from now on, dialogue will replace opposition.” Wang Yi, the director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, expressed similar sentiments, stating, “[t]oday is another important day in the history of cross-strait relations. … The trend of peaceful development for the relationship between two sides cannot be stopped. Today the prospects of peaceful development are brighter.” (China, Taiwan Celebrate Launch of Direct Flights, AFP, Dec. 15, 2008, available at