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Ships tread carefully along the Taiwan Strait

Ships have been warned to tread carefully when entering one of the world’s busiest waterways, the scene this week of the greatest geopolitical tension in Asia.

In the wake of US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei, which infuriated Beijing, China’s military started a four-day military exercise from noon today at six shipping zones surrounding the island, forcing many ships to take evasive action in the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) has advised all ships to steer well clear of the six zones where the Chinese are carrying out live fire exercises through to Sunday.

The MOTC advised ships to seek alternative routes to enter and exit Taiwan’s ports through to the end of the week.

Bloomberg data show that as of noon today, there were approximately 15 vessels in the military exercise regions, compared to 45 at the same time Wednesday.

Many ships have also rerouted – like Pelosi’s airplane – to the east side of the island, avoiding the strait all together at a time where tensions between Taipei and Beijing are among the highest experienced this century.

The Taiwan Strait is the primary route for ships passing from China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to points west. Almost half of the global container fleet and 88% of the world’s largest ships by tonnage passed through the waterway last year.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

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