Ships traveling through one of the world’s busiest sea regions have been forced to avoid areas totaling nearly 10,000 square miles as China conducts military exercises around Taiwan.
Taiwanese authorities have instructed ships to avoid six areas where Chinese military exercises are taking place, some of which are in or near the usually crowded Taiwan Strait, until the end of operations on Sunday.
Military exercises are one of many retaliatory actions by China in response to Visit of US President Nancy Pelosi at Taiwan.
China places ‘ring of steel’ around Taiwan – live updates
But shipping analysts say that while some ships have been rerouted, the impact on the global supply chain is expected to be minimal.
Marine Traffic shipping data shows ships moving through the region as usual in the hours leading up to the drills.
But as soon as the exercises begin, the ships begin to avoid the Region.
This region is of critical importance to the global shipping industry. Its main artery is the Taiwan Strait, located between mainland China and the island of Taiwan.
“All types of ships pass through the Taiwan Strait as it is the route to and from China and Korea for all ships sailing to and from the West,” said Niels Rasmussen, chief shipping analyst at the international maritime association BIMCO.
Most ships passing through the corridor transport raw materials to factories in East Asia or transport finished products from the region to the rest of the world.
Three of the military training areas are in or near the Taiwan Strait. It is not uncommon for shipping companies to factor active military exercises into their route planning, but it is unusual for exercises to take place in commercial shipping areas.
“What’s different about these drills is that they take place in such a concentrated and heavily used area. Typically, you wouldn’t perform drills in the middle of a busy shipping lane,” said Emily Stausbøll, transport analyst at shipping company Xeneta. .
One of the exclusion zones spans 800 square miles in the Taiwan Strait between the northwest coast of the island and Pingtan Island, which lies just off mainland China.
At 10:00 UTC (universal time) on July 29, approximately 17 ships are visible in the area. Most of them are carrier ships or tankers that use the busy trade route.
But move the white button on the image above and you can see that at the same time on August 4, eight hours after the start of the military exercises, the area is empty.
“Ships will have to take alternative and longer routes to get to Taiwanese ports and some ships have apparently already decided to sail east of Taiwan instead of crossing the strait,” Rasmussen said.
Another exclusion zone is located just 15 nautical miles from the entrance to one of Taiwan’s major ports, Kaohsiung.
On July 30, at least 30 ships were in the area. The port is visible nearby, where many ships seem to be gathered.
But at the same time, August 5, the number of ships is much less and only one ship seems to be on the perimeter.
However, Lloyd’s List Intelligence reports that there has been no reduction in port calls and there have been no further reports of disruptions at Taiwan ports.
The impact is largely being felt through detours around Taiwan’s east coast, which analysts say are troublesome but manageable.
“Delays are obviously never good and especially not for a supply chain that has been riddled with delays for a long time,” Rasmussen said.
“That said, if the exercise ends on Sunday without incident, it will only be a small part of the world fleet that will have been delayed by a relatively small amount.
“Small speed increases in the ship’s navigation schedule should make up for these delays over the next couple of months.”
The Data and Forensics Team is a multi-purpose unit dedicated to delivering transparent Sky News journalism. We collect, analyze and visualize data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite imagery, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling, we aim to better explain the world while showing how our journalism is done.
Why data journalism matters to Sky News