PLA commissions hospital ship at Nansha Islands, showcases regional presence
Published: Dec 02, 2020 08:14 PM

The Nanyi 13 hospital ship enters naval service at a naval port in Yongshu Reef in the South China Sea on November 30, 2020. Photo: Screenshot from China Central Television

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy recently commissioned a newly developed hospital ship, which will serve as a mobile medical force in the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea in missions including military and civilian medical support, international humanitarian aid and emergency rescue.

The Nanyi 13 ship, a new type of hospital ship independently developed by China, received a commissioning ceremony at a naval port in Yongshu Reef in the Nansha Islands on Monday, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Tuesday.

Its medical staff was dispatched from the PLA Southern Theater Command Navy First Hospital, enabling the ship to set up key departments for testing, surgical clinic, medicine, burns, special treatment and psychological consulting.

It is also equipped with advanced, large medical equipment including computed tomography, digital radiography, color ultrasonic diagnosis, gastroscope and portable advanced life support device, with more than 100 beds and the capacity to host three large-scale surgeries at the same time, CCTV reported.

China has already built modern hospitals on Yongshu Reef, Zhubi Reef and Meiji Reef, but the sea region of the Nansha Islands is vast, so it used to require doctors from these reefs. With its commissioning, the Nanyi 13 will routinize visits across the region as a mobile medical force, filling the void of maritime medical rescue.

The ship's main missions will be medical support for military personnel and civilians on the islands and reefs of Nansha and those on ships in the region, international humanitarian aid, emergency rescue, personnel transport and scientific experiments, the report said.

The Nanyi 13 has a length of 109 meters, a width of 17 meters and a displacement of more than 4,000 tons, and can host a rescue helicopter, the CCTV report said.

Another Chinese hospital ship, the Peace Ark, is 178 meters long, 24 meters wide and has a displacement of more than 14,000 tons, reported in 2019.

A smaller displacement is more practical for the Nanyi 13 to operate in the Nansha Islands, Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The Nanyi 13 is designed to sail between and dock by islands and reefs, and a larger displacement could hinder its mobility in places where water is shallow, Zhang said. 

Unlike the US, which has been pushing for militarization in the South China Sea, China is becoming more capable of providing international public services, including maritime search and rescue. By providing these public services, China will be able to showcase its presence in the region and demonstrate its practice of civil administration, Chinese experts said.