Taiwan Earthquakes: Impact on Transportation and Technology Supply Chains

Taiwan Earthquakes: Impact on Transportation and Technology Supply Chains

Executive Summary

  • A magnitude 6.4 earthquake near Hualien County in eastern Taiwan resulted in many casualties, structural damages and infrastructure disruption in the city area on late February 6
  • Several of the largest electronics manufacturers have subsequently issued statements following initial impact assessments of their factories and plants on the island
  • Highway sections and bridges were temporarily closed and operations at the Port of Hualien have been partially suspended due to severe damages
  • The Taiwanese government has warned of the potential for additional tremors to occur throughout the island in the next two weeks

Background

At least ten people were killed and 276 injured on late Tuesday, February 6, following a magnitude 6.4 earthquake that was centered 21 kilometres north-northeast of Hualien County in Taiwan. The tremors were felt across Taiwan, but damages were mainly reported in Hualien, a city of 100,000 inhabitants in the eastern part of Taiwan. At least 200 aftershocks have been detected, some of which occurred seconds after the main quake, including seven with a magnitude of 5.0 or greater. No tsunami warnings were initially activated.

Sources: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

Tremors were also felt in both Taipei and Tainan on Taiwan’s western coastline following a 5.7 earthquake, 19 kilometres north-east of Hualien, on early Thursday morning, February 8, with another three aftershocks recorded in the immediate aftermath. Although the risk remains highest near Hualien, the magnitude and frequency of earthquakes over the last couple of days may have compromised the structural integrity of more buildings elsewhere in the country.

In Hualien, reports indicated that several buildings have partially collapsed, including hotels and apartment blocks, with many tilting dangerously to the side as emergency services operated. Damages were also reported to highways and bridges in the area. Tens of thousands of customers were without power and water services following the earthquake.

Taiwan Earthquakes: Everstream Analytics Reporting History (Taiwan local time)

Impact on Manufacturing and Supply

Taiwan’s economy is driven largely by industrial manufacturing, in particular exports of consumer electronics, electrical machinery and semiconductors. According to industry sources, two of Taiwan’s largest producers of semiconductor material, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) and United Microeletronics Corporation (UMC), alone accounted for nearly two-thirds of the worldwide market share of integrated circuit wafers in 2014. Taiwan’s leading technology and science companies are heavily clustered in technology parks, the most prominent ones being the Hsinchu Science Park, the Central Taiwan Science Park, and the Southern Taiwan Science Park. In particular the Hsinchu Science Park and the Southern Taiwan Science Park are both home to over 500 companies supplying semiconductors, optoelectronics and biotechnology to global technology and healthcare customers, including TSMC and UMC.

As shown on the map below, a majority of manufacturing and supplier sites are visibly concentrated in science and technology parks in the northwestern region of Taiwan. Closest to the epicenter of the magnitude 6.4 earthquake near Hualien was the Hsinchu Science Park, at a distance of approximately 110 kilometers.

Northern Taiwan: Industries with potentially affected production sites and suppliers

However, despite the safe distance between important industrial sites from Hualien, concerns about disruptions to Taiwan’s semiconductor production following a series of strong earthquakes since February 4 led to a fall of the semiconductor subindex by 3 per cent.

Several of the largest electronics manufacturers have subsequently issued public statements on initial impact assessments:

  • Headquartered in northern Hsinchu, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) reported no impact from the 6.4 earthquake on February 6 following an initial damage assessment. The company is the largest contract chipmaker in the world and a major supplier to Apple.
  • Hon Hai Precision Industry, headquartered in northern New Taipei City, has indicated no damages as of February 4. Known as Foxconn, the company is the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer.
  • United Microeletronics Corporation, a manufacturer of integrated circuits wafers for fabless semiconductor companies, announced that the recent 6.4 magnitude earthquake had no impact to its operations at UMC’s Hsinchu and Tainan fabs and manufacturing remains normal
  • Winbond Electronics Corporation, which produces semiconductors and integrated circuits in Taichung on the west coast, said that no impacts have resulted from a magnitude 6.1 earthquake on February 4.
  • No public statements have so far been reported from other technology companies present in the area such as Innolux, Taiwan Semiconductor TSC or Catcher Technology.Smaller manufacturing operations in sectors ranging from technology, healthcare, automotive and engineering may be affected in the area but have not come forward to release a public statement. Customers with an interest in these supply chains should thus continue to monitor Taiwan-based suppliers in the coming days as impact assessments may take longer for smaller sub-tier suppliers, but could still have effects on production lines at Tier-1 suppliers.

Impact on Transportation

Taiwanese media sources initially indicated that the Hualien Bridge, Chishingtan Bridge, and the Suhua highway were closed to traffic on February 7 due to damages from the earthquakes. The Suhua highway, or National Road 9, an important access road to both Hualien Airport and the Port of Hualien, was closed at multiple locations in Hualien County following landslides. On February 7, the highway was reopened; however, advisories to use alternative roads remain in place. A road section between the 172 and 176 kilometer marks on Provincial Highway No. 8 was also temporarily closed due to reports of fallen rocks.

Due to severe damages at three wharves in the Port of Hualien, loading and unloading operations have been partially suspended since February 7. Operations at 23, 24 and 25 wharves have been halted for safety reasons, after it was discovered that the foundations have sunk over 50 centimeters. As a result, shipping operations going through the impacted port may be temporarily disrupted or delayed. As one of Taiwan’s four international ports, the Port of Hualien has an annual container volume of about 13 million tons, which mainly consist of gravel, cement, and marble.

Minor disruptions were also reported on rail tracks following Tuesday’s earthquake; however, the Taiwan Railways Administration has resumed rail service along the East Coast between Congde and Fentian Stations on February 7, after previously suspending services throughout Hualien City.

Impact on Infrastructure

In the immediate aftermath of the magnitude 6.4 earthquake, several hotels and apartment buildings partially have collapsed or tilted, with seven people still missing. Areas most affected by structural damages include Zhongmei 9th street, Guosheng 6th Street, Shangxiao Street and Gongyuan Road. On February 9, it was reported that the Taiwan Water Corporation has restored water service to a majority of affected customers across Hualien City. A total of 40,000 customers across Hualien City initially lost water service on February 7. About 1,900 households and businesses throughout the city were also temporarily without power. Power lines were restored to all affected areas in Hualien by February 9, but 8,500 households remain without water.

Outlook

Taiwan lies on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire near the junction of two tectonic plates, where earthquakes and volcanic activity are common. On Sunday, February 4, two strong earthquakes of magnitude 5.3 and 6.1 were recorded within 45 minutes of each other near Hualien. In the 48 hours before the magnitude 6.4 earthquake, more than eight earthquakes with magnitudes ranging from 4.1 to 6.1 were recorded near Hualien. This may have already compromised the structural integrity of some buildings which were then damaged in the strong 6.4 earthquake on Tuesday night.

In addition, the pattern of seismic activity that followed was reportedly stronger than anything that had previously been recorded in the area, according to Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau’s Seismology Center. The Taiwanese government has warned of the potential for additional tremors to occur throughout the island in the next two weeks. In a statement, it has advised that there is a strong likelihood for multiple 5.0 plus magnitude tremors to be experienced in this period. Customers are advised to monitor Everstream Analytics for further updates on the dynamic situation and to seek feedback on impacts to manufacturing sites and suppliers.

Northern Taiwan: Industries with potentially affected production sites and suppliers

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