January 20, 2021 — Due to the impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic on global route and vessel scheduling as well as port loading and transportation operation efficiency in 2020, demand for maritime shipping has spiked across the world, resulting in severe cargo space and container shortages. To maintain Taiwan’s competitiveness in international trade and ensure that all types of locally manufactured goods are successfully exported, the Maritime and Port Bureau (MPB) invited the Bureau of Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Economic Affairs(MOEA), Industrial Development Bureau of the MOEA, Department of International Affairs of the Council of Agriculture and Taiwan International Ports Corporation etc. to jointly form the “International Maritime Transport Stability Working Group” today (December 31) and seek advice from related industry associations. It was resolved in the meeting that Taiwanese shipping operators should at this stage prioritize the increase of cargo space and container amounts for routes with high shipping demand to expedite export, and that a dedicated “International Maritime Transport Stability” section offering information on trends of international shipping fee, shipping dates of major operators and Taiwan’s commercial port import and export volume should be established on the MPB’s official website to help business operators maintain a full grasp of maritime shipping market supply, thus ensuring seamless import and export trading operations and sustaining Taiwan’s strong international competitiveness.

Director-General Yeh Hsieh-lung, as chair of the meeting, emphasized that since the international shipping market is a free and open system of economic exchange, shipping fares will be determined based on actual market demand. Apart from requesting operators to charge according to such demand on a reasonable basis, he stressed that the MPB will be actively surveying the maritime shipping market; in the event of unreasonably jacked-up fares, offenders will be heavily penalized in accordance with the law. In addition, to ensure all types of goods are successfully exported, the MPB has asked the Industrial Development Bureau of the MOEA and Department of International Affairs of the Council of Agriculture to, in conjunction with the industry associations under their jurisdiction, form an overview of export demand and compile a list of routes and waypoints currently needed. The MPB has also requested Taiwanese shipping operators to increase the number of vessels assigned to perform transport and accelerate the return of empty containers so that domestic exporters and shippers have priority access to shipping. Alternative solutions for cargo transport have also been formulated, including utilizing the more readily available 20-foot containers for transport in place of 40-footers or using bulk carriers, to ensure that maritime shipping capacity is fully utilized and locally manufactured goods are successfully exported.

The MPB stated that Legislators Ho Hsin-Chun and Lu Ming-Che, who have been keeping close tabs on developments in the maritime shipping market, also sent representatives to participate in the meeting. Apart from urging the government administration to fully exert its powers in ensuring smooth export for local industries, the legislators also suggested that collaborations between the public and private sectors as well as cross-agency cooperation must be established to provide exporters with richer and clearer market information. By continuing to increase the transport capacity of international routes in high demand, industries affected by the pandemic will be able to respond to and overcome the issue of global cargo space and container shortage. Going forward, the MPB will in principle hold meetings on a bi-weekly basis to follow-up on the implementation of related tasks. Measures and approaches will also be adjusted as needed to offer timely and effective assistance to manufacturers adapting to changes in the international maritime shipping market, thus ensuring Taiwan maintains a strong momentum for economic and trade growth.