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regular-article-logo Thursday, 25 April 2024

4,500-tonne high-tech Chinese research vessel departs from Maldives: Report

Since 2019, China has also been using the vessel to conduct ‘distant water’ and ‘deep sea’ surveys at China's Pilot Ocean Laboratory

PTI Male Published 28.02.24, 04:15 PM
Representational image.

Representational image. File

A 4,500-tonne high-tech Chinese research vessel which made a port call here last week has left the shores of the Maldives, local media reports said on Wednesday.

Officially, the Chinese vessel Xiang Yang Hong 3 was here to "make a port call, for the rotation of its personnel and replenishment." “Xiang Yang Hong 03 has returned to the boundary of the Maldives' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) after docking in Male on February 22. However, despite departing from the Male harbour, tracking sites have shown the vessel's last signal near Hulhumale' two days ago,” news portal Adhadhu.com said.

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Hulhumale is less than 10 kms northeast of Male. The vessel had docked on February 23 in Thilafushi, about 7.5 kms to the west of Male.

“The vessel is expected to have turned off tracking systems, which it also did en route to Male' on January 22 when it was in the Java Sea off the coast of Indonesia,” it reported.

The news portal also provided some details about the type of vessel Xiang Yang Hong 03. The 100-metre-long vessel was added to the fleet of China's State Oceanic Administration (SOA) in 2016. This is the only 4,500-tonne vessel currently in China. Since 2019, China has also been using the vessel to conduct ‘distant water’ and ‘deep sea’ surveys at China's Pilot Ocean Laboratory, it said.

The vessel can also be used for studies on salinity, microbial genetic studies, underwater mineral exploration, and underwater life and environmental studies, it said. It has data buoys that can measure ocean currents, waves, and important environmental information. These buoys will provide real-time satellite information to the Chinese government, the report said.

On January 5, Sri Lanka, while denying entry to the Xiang Yang Hong 03, said it has declared a moratorium on foreign research ships entering its waters for a year amid concerns from India over Chinese research vessels docking in its neighbourhood.

Incidentally, the Chinese vessel was present near the India-Maldives-Sri Lanka trilateral Dosti-16 exercise that took place in the ocean near Male between February 22 and 25.

Earlier on January 23, the new China-friendly Maldives government said it had permitted the research vessel, equipped to carry research and surveys, to dock at Male port, saying the halt was for replenishment and that it would “not be conducting any research while in the Maldivian waters.” An American think-tank has alleged that a vast fleet of China's “scientific research” ships is collecting data from the oceans, including in the Indian Ocean Region, for military purposes, especially for submarine operations, a charge denied by Beijing, which said the Chinese vessels operations are in line with the UN Convention on Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson has previously defended the port call by the Chinese research ship to the Maldives saying, “China’s scientific research activities in relevant waters are for peaceful purposes and aimed at contributing to humanity’s scientific understanding of the ocean.” The Maldives' proximity to India, barely 70 nautical miles from the island of Minicoy in Lakshadweep and 300 nautical miles from the mainland's western coast, and its location at the hub of commercial sea lanes running through the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) gives it significant strategic importance.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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