China Drills Force Ships to Sail Around Taiwan Danger Zones

SChina’s provocative military exercises around Taiwan were disrupted by hipsters who rerouted vessels, creating problems in global supply chains and logistical issues.

The maneuvers, announced by Beijing in the wake of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, are taking place in six different areas around the island from noon local time Thursday until Sunday. China warned ships and planes not to go near areas where these exercises take place.

According to Bloomberg data, some ships traveled through Taiwan Strait Thursday. A few were still within the drill zones. At noon there were 15 vessels in exercise areas, up from 45 on Wednesday. In the Taiwan Strait, there were no vessels in the area closest to China’s mainland.

Shipbrokers predict that vessels will be rerouted to the east side of the island. This could cause delays of up to three days. Delays of that duration aren’t uncommon, and the long-term impact may be minimal if tensions ease next week.

Bad weather could make it more difficult for vessels to travel through Chinese waters. This may lead to further delays. Shenzhen city, which hosts the Yantian container port and lies directly west of Taiwan’s southern tip, issued a tropical cyclone warning, citing a low-pressure system about 117 kilometers (73 miles) away as of Thursday morning.

With almost half the world’s container fleet traversing the Taiwan Strait this year, the Strait is an important route. The disruption is just the latest inconvenience for supply chains, which have been reeling since the start of the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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According to Bloomberg ship-tracking data, at least one tanker of liquefied natural gases south of Taiwan changed its course in order to avoid military drills. Traders reported that other ships have been slowing down in order to avoid the maneuvers. It will lead to small delivery delays for Taiwan.

Some agricultural container cargoes from Southeast Asia to China have been postponed to load next week to avoid the risks, while some couldn’t be rescheduled and are still waiting for shipping companies’ notices, according to a Shanghai-based commodity trader.

Taiwan’s Maritime Port Bureau issued a notice warning ships to avoid the area where drills will take place as there is no fixed route for sea transportation, according to Taiwan’s transportation minister Wang Kwo-tsai.

Taiwan’s Formosa Petrochemical Corp. said Thursday morning there are currently no delays or postponements of cargoes heading to or leaving Mailiao port. CPC Corp. has a Kaohsiung refinery, close to one the drilling zones. It said that its port operations are unaffected.

“We’re very careful and asking port and ship agents to be cautious, and to not go into the drill zones,” said FPCC spokesman Lin Keh-Yen.

Sharon Cho, Elizabeth Low, and Winnie Zihu with assistance

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