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    RCCL,To Obtain Permission from Taiwan

    Taiwan could become a new star in the cruise tour market once restrictions on foreign ships traveling across the Taiwan Strait are eased later this year, an operator said yesterday.

    The removal of such restrictions will allow cruise operators to obtain permission for several trips with each application, which will encourage more ships to stop in Taiwan, said Royal Caribbean Cruises, a major cruise ship company based in the US.

    The company said Taiwan’s strategic location in maritime transportation lanes in Asia makes it possible for Keelung Port to become a major cruise ship hub like Hong Kong, Singapore and Tianjin, China.

    Royal Caribbean plans to put a 140,000-tonne cruise ship into service on its Asia routes next month, introducing the biggest cruise liner operating in the region.

    Starting in August, the massive ship will sail routes between Keelung and Shanghai, as well as to destinations in Japan and South Korea, Royal Caribbean said.

    Taiwan and China have agreed to allow foreign cruise ships to operate between the two sides of the Strait without having to apply for permission before each trip, according to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.

    The agreement, negotiated by the shipping associations of Taiwan and China late last year, is expected to be officially signed during bilateral talks in China in the first half of this year, the ministry said yesterday.

    Because very few cruise ships are registered in China or Taiwan, cruise operators have not benefited from a 2008 cross-strait pact that allows direct services across the Strait by ships registered on either side.

    As a result, cruise operators have had to obtain approval before each trip between Taiwan and China. Keelung Port, which handles the heaviest cruise ship traffic among all of Taiwan’s ports, recorded more than 461,000 visits by cruise ship passengers last year, a 2.6 percent increase from the previous year.

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