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Taiwan's largest live fish carrier embarks on first voyage

2011/09/22 21:30:38

Taipei, Sept. 22 (CNA) Taiwan's largest and first government-funded live fish carrier vessel, "Tai Hung 39," set out on its first voyage Thursday from Taiwan to China.

The 276-ton vessel, with a carrying capacity of 36 metric tons that is five times that of traditional boats, is expected to help Taiwan increase its efficiency and lower its costs in exporting live fish, mainly grouper, to China.

An inauguration ceremony was held at the Cijin fishing port in southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung, where the vessel set sail, after scores of trucks carrying live grouper unloaded their cargoes onto the boat.

Council of Agriculture (COA) Minister Chen Wu-hsiung said the government subsidized the building of the vessel in order to raise Taiwan's efficiency in transporting live fish, as well as to save energy.

He predicted that the launch of "Tai Hung 39" will help boost Taiwan's grouper exports, as the vessel boasts a larger carrying capacity, cuts the carrying cost by half, and shortens the transportation time, which ensures the freshness of the fish.

There are currently 18 live fish carrier vessels in Taiwan. Since most of these boats were transformed from old fishing boats, the equipment on the boats are in need of upgrade, according to officials from the Fisheries Agency under the COA.

The efficiency of transporting live fish from Taiwan to China becomes ever more important after the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) took effect Sept. 12 last year, said officials.

Officials said that "Tai Hung 39" was specially designed to carry live fish and that its seawater circulation system, oxygen delivery efficiency and drainage functions are much better than traditional live fish carriers.

It is also equipped with a temperature control system seldom seen on live fish carriers that allows the water on the vessel to be kept at the best temperature for the fish, said officials.

Taiwan's grouper export has increased from 1,840 tons worth NT$400 million (US$13.16 million) in 2008 to 7,958 tons worth NT$2.4 billion in 2010, according to the Fisheries Agency.

Grouper prices have also risen from NT$292.6 per kilogram in 2008 to the current NT$400 per kg, said the agency.

Grouper was on ECFA's early harvest list of goods and services that received tariff exemptions or reductions when imported into China.

(By Chang Che-fon and Christie Chen)