TAIPEI, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- Mainland and Taiwan officials were discussing practical arrangements for direct shipping across the Taiwan Strait, hoping to prevent excessive competition, said a senior mainland official here Monday.
Direct shipping was scheduled to kick off next Monday, said Hu Hanxiang, president of the mainland-based Association for Shipping Exchanges Across the Taiwan Strait, who has led a delegation visiting Taiwan since last Tuesday.
The first harbors in the mainland to be opened will be Tianjin, Shanghai, Taicang in eastern Jiangsu Province and one port in southeastern Fujian Province, he said.
The two sides agreed on an equal participation and orderly competition in direct shipping business, he said.
There are more than 4,400 shipping companies in the mainland. "They all hoped to dabble in cross-Strait business but, if allowing all of them in, there will be risks of excessive competition," he said. "We will decide how many shipping firms in the business according to the market situation and will consider letting some small firms in."
"The two sides will try to bring the most benefit to shipping firms and harbors through our arrangements," he added.
The direct shipping agreement was reached at the meeting between the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) and Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) on Nov. 4.
According to the agreement, the mainland will open 48 seaports and 15 river ones while Taiwan will open 11 harbors.
Since 1949, ships have had to sail via a third place across the Strait.
Direct shipping is significant for Taiwan shipping firms to expand their business to the central and northwestern part in the mainland, said Wang Long-shung, president of the Taiwan Cross-Strait Shipping Association and also chairman of Evergreen Marine Corporation, one of Taiwan's biggest shipping firms in terms of its fleet size.
"I hope the cooperation will speed up. And also hope we can discuss setting up branches on each other's side as early as possible," he said.