Evergreen Group Vice Chairman Lin Shing-san:
I've Waited a Long Time for This Day
One of Taiwan's foremost shipping tycoons lauds direct links with China, and foresees broad seas in the offing.
I've Waited a Long Time for This DayBy Elaine Huang
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 414 )
I've waited a long time for the day direct links with China would be established. Previously, shipping cargo to Shanghai required a detour through Japan, and an additional US$2,000 in customs fees. We were a gift from heaven for the Japanese, with every ship passing through forking over US$2,000 to get their papers stamped.
With direct links, transit times will be reduced by a day-and-a-half to two days. For a 10,000 ton-class freighter, that's a savings of US$10,000 on each leg or US$20,000 for the round trip. With 4,000 trips annually, that's a savings of more than a billion New Taiwan dollars each year.
With direct links, I estimate Kaohsiung Harbor will ship an additional one million container units annually. With the possibility of an increase in cargo being shipped in for processing in the harbor's export processing zone, Taiwan could well become a true operations center, a logistics center.
During the [earlier] period of KMT rule, there were big plans for Taiwan's transformation into a regional operations center, but unfortunately they were never fully implemented. Had those plans been seen through at the time, Kaohsiung Harbor would now be sitting in a veritable catbird seat. China's harbors, like Xiamen and Fuzhou, were not very well developed then, so how were freighters hauling 8,000 standard (TEU) containers going to get in? Now, with those ports accommodating 15,000 TEU freighters, fewer ships call at Kaohsiung.
But this does not mean Taiwan has no opportunities in transshipment. Kaohsiung Harbor has at least one advantage, and that is it is well situated in the middle of the Northeast Asia-Southeast Asia corridor. Cargo from points north in China can be shipped to Kaohsiung for transfer to larger ships and transit to points south; similarly for Southeast Asian cargo heading to points north in China.
Direct Links Will Mean Competition
Taiwan needs to put a lot more effort in areas like preferential rates on harbor fees and quality of service to convince shipping companies that they're better off choosing Taiwan for transshipment over Shanghai or Ningbo.
Lastly, port operations cannot continue as before. The age in which the nation's ports served as cash cows spinning revenue for the national treasury is over. Our harbors must be corporatized and run with entrepreneurial spirit.