New Delhi: The latest Chinese scientific ship to venture into the expanded Indian Ocean is the Shi Yan-6. It is currently headed to Hambantota Port. The Chinese media has referred to it as a ‘Scientific Research Vessel” operated by a crew of 60 people. The Ship is equipped to conduct various operations, such as experiments in oceanography, marine geology, and marine ecology.
Costing over 500 million Yuan (approximately 77 million USD), the Shi Yan-6 is recognised as a key asset among China’s 3000-tonne deep ocean research vessels.
This three-month voyage driven by multi-disciplinary seeks to gather extensive fundamental data It aims to study and uncover how dynamic processes impact the bio-geochemical cycles, ecosystems, and sedimentary processes in the region, elucidate the geographical patterns of biodiversity, understand the response of biological communities to physical processes and gain insights to paleoclimate changes.
This expedition is expected to enhance scientific research collaboration with nations along the Maritime Silk Road (A component of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative), contributing to the integration of science and education support of the BRI, according to China.
According to Commodore Anil Jai Singh of the Indian Navy, “These are primarily civilian ships and not military vessels, so there is no objection to their presence on the high seas.” The Naval officer is also the Vice-President of the National Maritime Foundation (NMF).
This essentially means that as long as these vessels remain outside Indian waters, China or any other nation can carry out their activity research without issues. While conducting maritime research in international waters is not restricted under the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on Law of Sea), states are required to seek permission six months in advance for the research in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or Continental Shelf.
“With the People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN-Chinese Navy) expanding its presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Chinese research vessels frequently make trips to the region, primarily in the Indian Ocean Region (eastern IOR). In 2019, they have encroached into India’s Exclusive Economic Zone and have prompted the intervention of the Indian Navy,” Commodore Singh said.