Indirect transport between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan has caused huge economic loss to people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, a mainland official said here on Saturday.
Realizing direct marine links across the Strait is the common hope and in the fundamental interests of the compatriots on both sides, said Li Jiansheng, an official with the Ministry of Communications, at a cross-Strait common market forum.
The development of the mainland has brought Taiwan with numerous opportunities, but people have to "seek far and wide for what lies close at hand" and suffer economic loss as a direct transport link has not been realized because of "human factors," Li said.
The island is less than 80 nautical miles from the mainland. It is 165 nautical miles from the Xiamen port on the mainland to the Kaohsiung port in Taiwan, which would only take a vessel 6-8 hours to travel, according to Li.
However, vessels have to make a detour for mainland-Taiwan transport. A vessel from Shanghai to Kaohsiung will need to sail only 600 nautical miles if the direct link is realized, compared with the current 935 nautical miles via Japan, Li said.
The detour would cost an additional day and more than 20,000 U.S. dollars for each vessel, Li said.
"The direct sea link would greatly reduce the cost of the economic and trade exchanges and offer huge commercial opportunities," Li said.
Non-stop charter flights across the Taiwan Strait have been launched since the Chinese Lunar New Year in 2005. Prior to that, there had not been direct air links across the Taiwan Strait for more than five decades.
However, charter flights are only offered during major festivals, though the mainland hopes to establish weekend and regular charter flights.
More than 300 officials, entrepreneurs, scholars took part in the Cross-strait Industrial Common Market Forum in Nanning, capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.