China requires information report for foreign vessels entering territorial waters, showing determination to safeguard national security
Published: Aug 29, 2021 08:15 PM
A ship loaded with liquefied natural gas (LNG) docks at an LNG receiving terminal in Zhoushan, East China's Zhejiang Province on Sunday. The tanker discharged 76,747 tons of LNG. The ship was the 11th LNG vessel the terminal received this year. Photo: CNSphoto

A ship loaded with liquefied natural gas (LNG) docks at an LNG receiving terminal in Zhoushan, East China's Zhejiang Province on Sunday. The tanker discharged 76,747 tons of LNG. Photo: CNSphoto

Operators of submersibles, nuclear vessels, ships carrying radioactive materials and ships carrying bulk oil, chemicals, liquefied gas and other toxic and harmful substances are required to report their detailed information upon their visits to Chinese territorial waters, according to a notice that China's maritime safety authorities released over the weekend. 

Chinese observers the Global Times reached on Sunday view such a rollout of maritime regulations as a sign of stepped-up efforts to safeguard China's national security at sea by implementing strict rules to boost maritime identification capability. 

In addition to the above-mentioned types of vessels, vessels that may endanger the maritime traffic safety of China prescribed by laws, administrative regulations or provisions of the State Council - China's cabinet - should also follow the new regulation which will take effective from September 1, the Maritime Safety Administration announced in the notice.

Those vessels should report to authorities the name, call sign, current position and next port of call and estimated time of arrival. 

The name of shipborne dangerous goods and cargo dead weight are also required in the report. 

After entering the Chinese territorial sea, a follow-up report is not required if the vessel's automatic identification system is in good condition. But if the automatic identification system does not work properly, the vessel should report every two hours until it leaves the territorial sea, read the Maritime Safety Administration announcement.

Some people connected the regulation to unmanned spy devices that coastal fishermen have captured from time to time. 

By mid-April, China has rewarded 91 fishermen living in coastal cities for capturing different types of foreign devices with spying functions since 2016 as the country faces a growing threat to its maritime security. 

But the submersibles mentioned in the announcement refer to manned rather than unmanned spy devices, Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Sunday.  

Song said that the new announcement showcases China's determination to regulate the foreign vessels' right of use within the country's territorial waters, which should be based on proper identification. 

The Maritime Safety Administration is one of two major maritime law-enforcement authorities in China. The Maritime Safety Administration has the power to dispel or reject a vessel's entry to Chinese waters if the vessel is found to pose threat to China's national security. The information requirement in the announcement is to facilitate the identification process, Song said. 

"If the vessel is military and trespassing in China's territorial waters without advance notice, it will be considered as serious provocation, and the Chinese military will take over to dispel or take even stronger measures to punish the invaders," the expert said. 

Though nuclear vessels are mentioned in the announcement, currently only icebreakers use nuclear power in the civil domain. But China has taken wider nuclear use on civil vessels into consideration, Song said.