South China Sea: Beijing set to unleash huge $100m spying vessel as conflict fears rise

According to the South China Morning Post, the boat will cost around $100m, or 676m yuan. It has been commissioned by the Guangdong Maritime Safety Administration and will weigh a staggering 10,700 tonnes. Reports suggest it will be able to carry out a series of vital operations, including emergency reduces and help tackle pollution.

The vessel will also be large enough to have different types of helicopters on board.

It has been estimated that the ship will be completed by September 2021.

Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator, said: “China needs more and larger patrol ships with higher cruising ability.

“The law enforcement ability of small vessels is limited … [so] with large patrol ships, the maritime authorities can conduct more regular patrols in different maritime areas.”

Chinese reports say the ship will give Beijing’s civilian maritime law enforcement capabilities a boost.

Adam Ni, a China specialist based in Australia, believes the new ship will give Beijing a major advantage in the battle for supremacy in the waters.

He said: “China’s increasing maritime capability, not only with respect to the People’s Liberation Army but also its non-military units is expected to strengthen its position in the South China Sea.

“That is something we have to be very conscious of when looking at the strategic balance in the South China Sea, where the competition is now not just about military-to-military competition but increasingly about law enforcement and non-military forces.”

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China is a major exporting country and views ensuring access for its ships through the South China Sea as a major strategic security issue.

In addition the disputed waters are believed to contain huge deposits of oil and gas.

Experts believe that there are up to 11 billion barrels worth of oil under the South China Sea along with 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Beijing is keen to secure its fair share of these hydrocarbons to meet the demands of its ever growing industry.