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Mainland beefs up sea rescue force ahead of cross-Strait direct shipping

  BEIJING, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- The Ministry of Transport has decided to beef up the sea rescue force deployed in the Taiwan Strait ahead of the cross-Strait direct shipping scheduled to kick off next Monday.

  Zheng Jian, an official with the ministry, said here Tuesday that one more rescue ship would be deployed in the southern waters of the strait, bringing the total number of ships for rescue mission to five. One of the four ships currently on duty in the area would be upgraded into a more powerful one.

  He said deploying more ships is aimed at timely rescue operations in case of ship wrecks or other sea accidents in the strait.

  The direct shipping agreement was reached at the meeting between the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) on Nov. 4.

  According to the agreement, the mainland will open 48 sea ports and 15 river ones while Taiwan will open 11 harbors for the direct shipping.

  Since 1949, ships have had to sail via a third place across the Strait.