Authorities in Taipei have promised to act swiftly so cross-strait transshipment services can start by mid-April. They were reacting to China's landmark decision to let five mainland-based shippers operate Taiwan routes. If the plan is realised, the shippers would operate the first cross-Taiwan Strait shipping services since both sides were separated by the 1949 communist takeover of the mainland. Mao Chih-kuo, Taiwan's Vice-Transport and Communications Minister, urged the five shippers to apply swiftly for permission to operate the routes from port authorities in Kaohsiung. He promised that a review of the applications would be completed within a week of their receipt so that services could start by the middle of the month. Beijing's decision to give the five shippers approval, news of which reached Taipei yesterday, was expected following the successful conclusion of unofficial talks in Hong Kong in January, Mr Mao said. At the talks, representatives of two private organisations - Taiwan's Cross-Strait Shipping Association and China's Cross-Strait Shipping Exchange Association - worked out details for cross-strait shipping, Mr Mao said. Transport officials from both sides were present at the talks, although ostensibly only in their roles as advisers to the two private organisations. Under Taipei's plan, mainland cargoes bound for third destinations may be transshipped at Kaohsiung harbour inside a special 'offshore transshipment centre' technically outside the jurisdiction of Taiwan Customs.