Ships resume travel on Taiwan Strait despite China’s military drill

Shipping in the Taiwan Strait on Monday begins to show signs of returning to normality, even though China’s announcement of a new military exercise near the island signals risk for the industry.

According to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg, since Saturday more than 40 vessels have transited through a China military drill zone south of Taiwan’s main port. The latest ship positions show four of the total six zones being traversed.  

The Taiwan Strait – a key route for supply chains and commodities is facing uncertainty and delays since Beijing kickstarted its most provocative military drills in decades in the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan last week. 

While some shipowners barred their vessels from transiting the strait, others navigated their ships around the drill zones. Seeking to avoid the large drill zone located just offshore, vessels also were hesitant about approaching the major port of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan. 

The military exercises were scheduled to be completed on Sunday, but China’s military said it conducted antisubmarine and naval strike exercises in the “air and sea space near Taiwan Island” on Monday. It didn’t specify where the drill was being held or whether it was part of the exercises around Taiwan over the previous four days. 

On Monday, the Taiwanese Defense Ministry separately informed that it has detected Chinese warplanes and warships around the island. But no new navigational warnings for live-fire exercises near Taiwan have been published by China so far. 

Before the announcement of the new drill around midday Monday, there were signs that shipping and air travel were resuming their original routes. 

Shipping experts say, that the financial penalties for not delivering cargoes to customers on time may be too costly to avoid the strait. 

Apart from Taiwan, China has also publicized drills in other areas along its coast, which is well outside the Taiwan Strait. The drills include live-weapon firing from Aug. 6-15 in the southern part of the Yellow Sea separating the mainland from the Korean Peninsula — a frequent area for exercises. 

Military exercises will also take place in parts of the Bohai Sea in the north for a month from Aug. 8, said the Maritime Safety Administration warning ships to avoid entering the area. Drills were also held in that region around this time last year.

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