Massive Steel Cities: Kaohsiung, Taiwan

In the first of our four-part series about cities around the world that have helped shape the steel industry, we’re looking at Kaohsiung in Taiwan. This ancient city, founded around 4700-5200 years ago, is best known as Taiwan’s largest port, which is the 6th largest in the world. The city of over 2.7 million people has also played a critical role in the world’s steel industry.

Japanese colonial rule paves the path to prosperity

It was during the fifty years of Japanese rule between 1895 and 1945 that Kaohsiung began the transformation from sleepy port town to major steel producer. The Japanese government invested heavily in the island’s economy with the aim of creating a ‘model colonial economy’ – building infrastructure, improving water and sanitation systems, building public schools and introducing compulsory education. It was the Japanese focus on building railways and improving port infrastructure that paved the way for Kaohsiung’s future role in steel production.

  • 1900 – The first railway between Kaohsiung and Tianan was built in 1900
  • 1908 – The Western line, linking the northern and southern parts of the country was built in 1908
  • 1919 – Taiwan’s first steel mill was built in 1919
  • 1971 – Taiwan’s steel production moves to the country’s biggest mill in Kaohsiung in 1971
  • 1975 – Kaohsiung’s harbour redevelopment project was completed, making it the largest port in Taiwan
  • 1988 – The largest integrated hot rolling stainless steel mill in South East Asia is completed, producing over 1 million metric tonnes of hot rolled stainless steel plate and coils each year
  • 2007 – High-speed rail, based in Japan’s Shinkansen technology links the capital city of Taipei in northern Taiwan and Kaohsiung.
  • 2012 – The World Shipping Council estimates the Port of Kaohsiung handles 9.78 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units)
  • 2015 – Worldsteel published its annual yearbook stating that Taiwan’s total production of crude steel exceeded 22.5 million tonnes.

High-tech hub

While steel production still rates as a major driver of the Taiwanese economy, the 21st century has seen the technology industries of Taiwan flourish. Today, Taiwan is home to a number of global technology companies such as Acer computers, mobile-phone maker HTC and Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics and IT company, making products for industry leaders such as Apple, Nintendo, Microsoft, Playstation and Nokia.

The tech industry may have stolen the spotlight from Kaohsing as a steel city of the world, but the city remains proud of its industrial heritage, holding the biennial Kaohsiung Steel and Iron Sculpture festival. The event attracts artists from around the world to celebrate the art and industry of steel. Sculptors are asked to fabricate new works over a two-week period from approximately 120 tons of materials provided by a Kaohsiung steelworks.

Kaohsiung is also home to the National Science and Technology museum – the second largest in the world which features a permanent exhibition dedicated to the industrial history of Taiwan, including the country’s steel industry pioneers.

Don’t forget, this post is the first of four in our series looking at steel cities of the world. Next time, we’re looking at another seaport, the steel city of Pohang in South Korea.

Just like the steel city of Kaohsiung, ShapeCUT has also successfully made the transition to 21st century steel manufacturing methods. With 10 of the best modern steel profile cutting machines available, we’re able to provide oxy fuel, high definition plasma and laser cutting services to produce the highest quality customised steel processing solutions for our customers.

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