Shippers rerouted vessels as China embarked on one of its most provocative military drills around Taiwan in decades, with at least one owner preventing ships from passing via the strait.
Taiwan mentioned that China fired 11 missiles in waters around the island as of 4 pm local time on Thursday. In response to Nancy Pelosi, the US House Speaker’s visit to the island this week, the manoeuvres are reportedly taking place in six regions surrounding Taiwan. China advised ships and aircraft not to go close to these areas.
A statement put forward by the Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army said it had fulfilled live-fire training and also lifted relevant air and sea controls. It did not clarify whether the exercises had ended. However, the state-run People’s Daily later said that controls off the eastern coast of Taiwan had been lifted. The drills began on Thursday at noon and lasted until Sunday.
Ships continued travelling via the Taiwan Strait on Thursday, per data shared by Bloomberg. At the same time, the data reflected almost 15 vessels in the drill zones at noon. These may have moved out of the impact areas before the exercises kicked off. There were no ships in the zone nearest China’s mainland in the Taiwan Strait or toward the island’s east.
It is an evolving scenario, and at least one of the ship owners has barred ships from transiting the Taiwan Strait, per Anoop Singh, the head of tanker research at Braemar.
Some vessels are now being rerouted around the island’s eastern side, which will result in delays of as many as three days, shipbrokers predict. Delays of that duration are not rare, and the long-term impacts may be reduced if tensions ease in the coming week.
However, the risks for ships travelling via Chinese waters may be compounded by poor weather, threatening more delays. Shenzhen city hosts the Yantian container port. It lay west of Taiwan’s southern tip and gave out a tropical cyclone warning, mentioning a low-pressure system about 117 kilometres away as of Thursday morning.
Ships are now being diverted to the Taiwan Strait, and Chinese seas have not been designated a war risk zone for insurance-specific purposes, mentioned an insurance and trader broker.
The Taiwan Strait is one of the key routes, with nearly half of the global container fleet passing via the waterway in 2022. The disruption is the latest inconvenience supply chains are encountering, which have been reeling from the start of the ongoing pandemic and war in Ukraine.
At least three LNG tankers around Taiwan changed course to avoid military drills, per ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. The traders informed that several others are lowering speed to prevent manoeuvres, resulting in minor delivery delays to Taiwan and other nearby destinations.
Some agricultural container cargoes to China from Southeast Asia have been postponed to load next week to avoid the risks, while some could not be rescheduled. They are still waiting for shipping firms’ notices, per a commodity trader based in Shanghai.
Taiwan’s Maritime Port Bureau published a notice that warned ships to avoid areas where drills are currently taking place as there are no fixed routes for sea transportation, per Wang Kwo-Tsai, Taiwan’s transportation minister.
Formosa Petrochemical Corp. of Taiwan mentioned on Thursday morning there are currently no postponements or delays of cargoes leaving or heading to Mailiao port. CPC Corp., a refinery based in Kaohsiung near one of the drill zones, mentioned that port operations stay unaffected.
References: The Economic Times, NDTV