FUZHOU, July 11 (Xinhua) -- A direct passenger-cargo sea route opened Thursday between Pingtan in Fujian Province and Taiwan's Kaohsiung, a new link to facilitate cross-Strait ferry and cargo services.
Carrying over 700 passengers, the ro-ro passenger-cargo vessel "Haixia" set sail from Pingtan at around 10 a.m. for a 178-nautical-mile journey in 4.5 hours.
"Haixia" made its maiden voyage from Pingtan to Taichung on Nov. 30, 2011, marking the opening of the first direct passenger shipping route between the mainland city and Taiwan. The second such service was launched between Pingtan and Taipei in October 2013.
The new route offers a new choice of cross-Strait travel for residents in southern Taiwan, said Zhang Siwei, a manager with Haixia's operator Fujian Cross-Strait Ferry Corporation.
Zhang said the route will drastically shorten the shipping time for fresh farm produce and seafood from the island to reach the mainland market as the majority of similar products are exported through the port of Kaohsiung.
A regular sea freight service between Kaohsiung and Pingtan, which was opened in February, takes nine hours to complete a single trip.
Over 900,000 cross-Strait passengers have traveled on these routes since the direct shipping service between Pingtan and Taiwan began in 2011.
Pingtan, an island about 126 km away from Taiwan, has been working to promote cross-Strait trade and is aspiring to be the "First Home" on the mainland for Taiwan compatriots and enterprises.