According to commentators, China’s military drills in the seas near Taiwan have encouraged some ships to circumnavigate the Taiwan Strait and give the island a wide berth, interrupting important trade routes for cargo and commodities going across the globe.
Angered by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China launched four days of military maneuvers surrounding the disputed island on Thursday, involving the launching of live missiles and the deployment of fighter planes.
Although Taiwan’s ports remain open for business, some cargo ships and oil tankers are re-routing around the island to avoid conflict with the Chinese military, adding around a half-day to trips, according to experts and ship owners.
The 180-kilometer-wide (110-mile-wide) Taiwan Strait and a shipping channel to the island’s east are significant routes for ships moving products from East Asia to the United States and Europe.
Disruptions at Chinese ports caused by COVID-19 lockdowns disrupted global supply lines earlier this year, contributing to worldwide record inflation.
“Though China’s action has yet to significantly disrupt ocean freight operations, a prolonged version certainly could,” said Zvi Schreiber, CEO of the Freightos shipping index to Reuters.
“Regional conflict could force vessels to take alternative routes, adding transit time, disrupting schedules and causing further delays and costs.”
Airlines have also canceled and redirected flights to Taipei to avoid neighboring airspace that has been restricted to civilian traffic during the Chinese military exercises.
This week, Pelosi became the highest-ranking US government official to visit Taiwan in 25 years, in a high-stakes move she claimed demonstrated the US’s unshakeable commitment to the self-ruled island.
China, which claims Taiwan as part of its sovereignty, reacted by sending fighter aircraft, bombers, and warships to the strait and all surrounding the island to demonstrate military might.
According to Anoop Singh, head of tanker research at Braemar, a maritime risk management, large oil tanker owners have boosted security alert levels and are diverting boats.
Shipping insurance companies have also sent advisories to their members, advising them to exercise care while traveling near Taiwan.
Though tankers and cargo ships continued to dock properly in Taiwan, experts cautioned that even slight delays for ships were a cause for worry at a time when global commerce was still recovering from the effects of pandemic lockdowns.