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Taiwan - China ships bring danger, money to Ishigaki

Date Posted: 2003-02-15

Booming trade between Taiwan and China is bringing an unexpectedly large number of Chinese and Taiwanese ships to Ishigaki Island. The Chinese and Taiwanese ships are unable to cross the Taiwan Strait directly. They must come first to Ishigaki Port for clearance, and then continue to their final destination of either a Chinese or Taiwanese port.

According to 11th Maritime Safety Agency officials, many crews have rather questionable professional skills necessary to navigate the ships safely through narrow passages into the shallow port of Ishigaki. Compounding the problems are the poor quality and outdated maps of the port that many of these ships use. Their maps often are drawn on 1:100,000 scale and lack important details.

“The passage to Ishigaki Port is long and narrow and very difficult to navigate. Many of those crews lack even the most basic skills of seafaring, and that means that accidents are inevitable,” and officer at MSA Ishigaki Office said.

Two accidents have already happened this year. On Jan. 30, a container ship ran aground near Taketomi Island. Although the ship was able to free itself, several containers fell overboard and were lost. Another clearance ship ran aground a week later on a reef off Ishigaki.

MSA officials say that in both cases the ships had poor maps lacking details. “Both had maps in a scale 1:100,000 when they should use maps of the scale of at least 1:10,000 that show the area in detail,” the MSA officer said.

Last year 3,265 ships stopped at Ishigaki Port for clearance either to Taiwan or China, a 37.5 percent increase from 2001. The number is expected to double this year. On the positive side, the large number of ships means income. Ishigaki Port last year collected ¥231 million in clearance taxes. As the number of ships increases, the tax income rises accordingly.

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