In the bustling southeastern port city of Xiamen, a ship loaded with clothing and food from the mainland set off to Taiwan at 7 pm.
Thirteen hours later, it arrived at Taipei where goods were declared through an expedited channel. The whole process took less than a day.
The trip, which took place in early July, marked the beginning of the two-way cross-Straits marine express service. It is a big improvement from traditional marine cargo services, which often take five days to ship and clear the products.
“Compared with delivering packages by air, the new marine express service could reduce transportation costs by nearly half and is also fast enough to meet customer demand,” said Zhou Guitang, an official at the customs bureau in Xiamen, Fujian province.
The new service is part of the broad efforts by the local governments to tap into the booming e-commerce between Xiamen and Taiwan. Data shows that in the first half of this year, cross-border e-commerce in Xiamen climbed by 50 percent to 50 billion yuan ($ 8 billion), with cross-Straits e-commerce accounting for a significant proportion.
According to Zhou, companies that have been licensed to offer international delivery services are all qualified to provide the accelerated shipping service.
“There are nine eligible companies in Xiamen. As an increasing number of enterprises embrace the new service, it could unleash a new e-commerce boom,” Zhou said.
Industry analysts forecast that when the new services are fully operational, annual e-commerce transactions between Xiamen and Taiwan could reach about 25 billion yuan.
However, turning the rosy prospect into reality is not easy. Currently, only few ships are fast enough to provide the service and most of them do not possess the related licenses.
“Ships have to apply for licenses from both Xiamen and Taiwan authorities before they are allowed to sail across the Straits. Most of the companies are still caught up in this time-consuming process,” said Xue Wenchuan, who is in charge of marine express service at the Xiamen branch of Sinotrans Air Transportation Development Co.
Xue said the lack of qualified ships is the biggest barrier for the expansion of marine express services. “We hope that in the future ships which sail from Xiamen will arrive at Taipei within four hours,” Xue said.
To further expedite the express service, Xiamen Customs Bureau also allows products to be loaded last so that they can be unloaded first. It has also set up an information platform to streamline processes needed to declare the items.