THE NEW MARITIME LAW OF CHINA

WHY IN THE NEWS?

China has announced its new maritime laws according to which Foreign Vessels or Foreign Ships (both military and commercial) will now need to submit to Chinese supervision in “Chinese Territorial Waters”. 

These rules have been enacted since September 1, and thus controls the entry of foreign vessels in Chinese territorial waters.

With the implementation of these laws, it is expected to have wide consequences in the disputed South China Sea, East China Sea and Taiwan Strait. And can further increase or exacerbate the existing tensions with the US and its neighbours in the region.

WHAT THE LAW SAYS

As per the Chinese Maritime Safety Administration- “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”.

So, it is clear that the operator of the vessel needs to report, what he is carrying in the vessel at Chinese Territorial Waters.

BACKGROUND

This law is a result of series of decisions made since 2020 which have enlarged or increased the tension in the East and the South China Sea.

Ex: February 2021 Law that authorises Chinese Coast Guard to use arms on foreign ships and to demolish or destroy economic structures in disputed areas.

FEATURES OF THE LAW

  1. Vessels under Chinese Supervision – According to the new law, foreign vessels(both military and commercial have to report to Chinese supervision in Chinese territorial waters.
  2. Information to give under the law- Vessels need to report their name, call sign, current position, next port etc upon entering the Chinese Territorial Waters.
  3. Types of Vessels included- Operators of submersibles, nuclear vessels, ships carrying radioactive materials, ships carrying bulk oil, chemicals, liquefied gas and other toxic and harmful substances.

OBJECTIVE BEHIND THOSE RULES

To strengthen maritime traffic safety and ultimately securing national security at sea by implementing strict and compulsory rules.

GLOBAL IMPORTANCE OF SOUTH CHINA SEA

  1. Water Surrounding China itself is a conflict- China claims a nine-dash line map as the last demarcation of the sea borders where China is assuming a larger part of the South China Sea. The Nine-Dash Line is a demarcation line used by China.
  2. US-China Dispute- US doesn’t have a direct geographical interference with the demarcation of the sea boundary, but the US supports smaller nations in their struggle against China overreach.
  3. Important Trade Route- South China Sea, and of which China claims a larger part connects China, Taiwan, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Around 1/3 rd of ships of global trade passed through them, thus a major trade corridor with trade amounting to over $5 trillion.
  4. Important Route for India- India do trade with Japan, South Korea, ASEAN countries, thus this sea route is very much important for India. According to the Ministry of External Affairs, around 55% of the country’s trade travels through the South China Sea. Thus, India needs to maintain peace and stability in the region.
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