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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (November 30, 2001 – The Marshall Islands Journal)---The Marshall Islands has become the first ship registry to recognize Taiwan sea farer certificates and endorse the island’s maritime examination and training system in a move that should be followed by other flag states, the Financial Times of London reported late last week.

The decision should make it easier for Taiwanese crewmen to obtain jobs on Taiwan and foreign flagged ships amid a tightening of standards led by the International Maritime Organization, the Financial Times said.

Peter Wong Wan-loong, from International Registries Inc (IRI), which administers the Marshall Islands ship register, said Taiwan has been in a difficult position. Its political status means it is not an IMO-recognized entity.

Consequently it has not been included on the IMO’s White List approving certification and marine training facilities. Without independent verification of seafarer standards, thousands of Taiwanese crewmen risk losing their jobs. Wong, IRI (Far East) managing director in Hong Kong, said, "Ship owners with Taiwanese crew were worried that flag states would detain their ships. The Taiwan government has asked other countries to recognize seafarer certificates and endorse the examination and training system.

"The Marshall Islands has done a lot to inspect training centers and the examination system. As a result we will issue a Marshall Islands license to Taiwan seafarers."

Other flag states such as Panama and the Bahamas are looking at giving similar endorsements.

The move should secure the jobs of Taiwan’s 10,000 active seafarers who are mainly employed by leading shipping lines such at Evergreen Marine, Uniglory Yang Ming Line, U-Ming Marine Transport and Taiwan Navigation.

Currently, Evergreen Marine is Taiwan’s largest shipping company with 66 containerships.

Wong, who signed the deal with the Taiwan authorities, said, "The training facilities are good - much better than several other Asian countries. We inspected maritime academies and universities."

These included facilities in Kaohsiung, Keelung and Taipei.

The agreement coincides with a decision by Taiwan to lift a 51-year ban on direct trade and investment in China.

The cabinet decision means Taiwan businesses can invest directly in China instead of routing investments through a third country, usually Hong Kong, Macao and Singapore. Offshore subsidiaries of Taiwan banks can also remit money to and from the mainland. Taiwanese have put US$ 60 billion into China since the thaw in relations began in the late 1980s.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail:  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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