High anticipation on exchanges rises with gradual resumption of cross-Straits ferry service
Published: Mar 17, 2023 08:29 PM
A group of Taiwan youth poses at the Wutong Ferry Terminal, Xiamen, southeast China's Fujian on March 17, 2023. Photo: Wang Qi/Global Times

A group of Taiwan youth poses at the Wutong Ferry Terminal, Xiamen, East China's Fujian on March 17, 2023. Photo: Wang Qi/Global Times

Both cross-Straits ferry service operator and mainland-based Taiwan residents expressed high anticipation on closer exchanges on Friday, after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities announced on Thursday that the scope of the cross-Straits ferry service between the island-administrated Kinmen, Matsu, and Penghu to Chinese mainland's Fujian Province will be expanded to all Taiwan residents and their mainland spouses, from March 25, with also sailings increasing.

The Global Times reporters visited Xiamen's Wutong Ferry Terminal in Fujian, a pier eight nautical miles away from Kinmen Shuitou Pier. It only takes 15 minutes to get to Kinmen by high-speed catamaran.

Before the new stipulation came into effect, only Kinmen and Matsu residents and their mainland spouses and children have had the access to the ferry services, including the Kinmen-Xiamen line and the Matsu-Fuzhou line, which were restored in a limited capacity in January. 

Wu Jinshi, the deputy general manager of the Arport Coast, a Xiamen-based cross-Straits ferry service operator, told the Global Times on Friday that the service will be expanded to six round-trip ferry journeys from Kinmen to Xiamen per day.  

Starting from March 25, round trips on the Kinmen-Quanzhou route will be increased to three per week, from the current two per week. Trips between the Matsu Islands and Fuzhou will also increase to as many as 14 per week, compared with four at the moment, Taiwan-based media reported.

Although there is currently only one round-trip ferry service per day, Wu isn't worried. "More passengers will return as soon as the DPP authorities lift restrictions."

Our record is 20 round trips per day before the pandemic, generally running from 8 am to 18:30 pm, said Wu.

According to Wu, the newest Wutong Ferry Terminal, which officially opened in June 2019 for the Xiamen-Kinmen ferry route, was designed for five million passenger trips a year. 

"Such a huge investment was made based on good expectation," Wu said. "We used to run extra shifts, and as long as we had customers, we didn't want them to miss the ferry."

However, Taiwan authorities still do not allow mainland residents who are allowed to travel to Kinmen, Matsu to travel to Taiwan island. Chinese mainland and mainland-based Taiwan businessmen have repeatedly urged the secessionists DPP authorities to take practical measures and remove unilateral barriers to cross-Straits exchanges with COVID-19 epidemic as excuse, including resume more direct flights and ferry services.  

According to Wu, there were 1.82 million passengers who traveled via the Kinmen-Xiamen ferry service in 2019, about 60 percent of which were Taiwan compatriots and 40 percent from the mainland. While the passenger flow of Taiwan compatriots has been basically stable at about 1 million in recent years, the real growth point in the future will be more likely tourists from the mainland.

The spending power of mainland tourists is vital to the economy of both Kinmen and Taiwan, Wu said.

While at Wutong Ferry Terminal, reporters also met a group of Taiwan youth visiting the pier. Johnson Wu, a Taiwan compatriot who has started small business in Xiamen since 2018, told the Global Times that the resumption of the ferry service has greatly reduced their cost of returning to Taiwan island, especially since it costs 10 times as much to fly from Xiamen to Taiwan during the Spring Festival.

A Global Times reporter saw on a screen in the waiting hall of the Wutong Ferry Terminal that the fare of Xiamen-Kinmen ferry service was 129 yuan ($18.8) for passengers except business class, 94 yuan for children aged two to 12, seniors over 65 and people with disabilities.

Stanley Diao, a Taiwan compatriot who works in Xiamen, told the Global Times on Friday that many of his friends in Taiwan have expressed that they want to come to Xiamen for traveling and enjoying local snacks through the ferry service. "They are really looking forward to it."