China Building Six Major Cutters a Year–How many are Enough?

China Defense Blog is reporting “In order to improve the capacity of marine law enforcement and safeguard marine rights, China plans to build 30 vessels for marine law enforcement in the next five years.” The source is here, but the blog has pictures, as well the complete text, while the source has none.

I found this quotation puzzling:

“China has a vast area of seas, but the number and the tonnage of vessels for marine law enforcement are both small. China’s fleet does not meet the standard of one vessel per 1,000 square kilometers (emphasis applied) and there is a huge gap compared to other developed countries, said Li Lixin, director of South China Sea Branch of State Oceanic Administration of China, on Monday.”

For comparison, from Wikipedia:

The US has the largest EEZ in the world: 11,351,000 sq km

Japan EEZ: 4,479,358 sq km

China’s EEZ is much smaller, 877,019 sq km. Even adding the EEZ of Taiwan and other areas claimed by China, but disputed by others (3,000,000 sq km) the total is 3,877,019 sq km.

Applying a one patrol vessel to 1,000 sq km would mean the USCG should have 11,351 cutters. In fact we have 43 patrol cutters over 1000 tons or about 1 per 264,000 sq km. If the Chinese had a ship to patrol area ratio like ours, they would only need three or four ships. Clearly there is a disconnect here.

We talked a bit about a comparison of the Japanese Coast Guard and their Chinese counterparts here, and it is clearly the Japanese they are comparing themselves to.  There is a pretty good article on the various agencies the Chinese use to do maritime law enforcement missions here.

The other nations with the largest EEZs are Australia, France, Russia. Japan, with the 9th largest EEZ, has the largest fleet of cruising cutters in the world. China’s EEZ is 32nd in size.

Still I think the Chinese may be on to something in terms of justifying their fleet. Maybe we ought to do some sort of resource to area of responsibility comparison. We know that our EEZs in the Southwest Pacific and Arctic are under served.

India on the Challenges of Guarding the Coast

The Indians have had a lot of incentive to secure their maritime borders since the terrorist attack on Mumbai of November 26, 2008, an event they refer to as 26/11 just as we refer to 9/11. The success of this attack was a direct result of a failure of their Navy and Coast Guard. For more information on how the attack developed, including the murder of two Indian Coast Guard boarding officers, go here. Since the attack, India has embarked on a program to triple the size of their Coast Guard, a component of the Ministry of Defense that grew out of the Navy in 1978.

The Hindustan Times reports of an interview with Vice-Admiral Sanjeev Bhasin, flag officer commanding in chief of the Western Naval Command, provides and update on their efforts.

…securing India’s western coast is the Navy’s biggest challenge. The threat perception of terrorists using the sea route, as they did for 26/11, has increased.

“India has a huge coastline, stretching 7,600 km, and we have island territories as well. We, along with the Coast Guard, have fortified patrolling. But there are grey areas where [unauthorised] landings can be carried out because the state governments concerned had not kept them under surveillance till 26/11 occurred.”A detailed plan has been chalked out with the Coast Guard and the Director General of Lighthouses to revive lighthouses and set up 30 radar stations along the western coast.

“Trials of two such radar stations have started at Okha and Kandla in Gujarat.

“The Navy has found it tough to monitor fishing boats. This is a weakness identified [and exploited] by the terrorists. About 30,000 fishing boats are registered in Gujarat, 20,000 in Maharashtra, 20,000 in Karnataka and 2,000 in Goa.

“Radar stations fitted with the Automatic Identification System (AIS) have been planned along the coast.

“AIS devices will also be installed on these vessels. It is a massive problem and it cannot be taken care of only by the Navy and Coast Guard.

“We need fishermen’s cooperation; we want them to be our eyes and ears. They have been very cooperative.”


This tread has some interesting photos of modern icebreakers. Hopefully someone is thinking about this topic in the context of what our new construction icebreakers will look like.

The US does have a couple of ice capable research vessels that are referred to in the tread that I had not been aware of, the 94 meter (310 foot) icebreaker R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer, built in 1992,

Nathaniel B. Palmer in sea ice

and the 76 meter (251 foot) ice-strengthened (Ice class ABS A1) RV Laurence M. Goul,  built in 1997. Both were built by Edison Chouest Offshore Inc., Galliano, Louisiana,

L.M. Gould in Arthur Harbor

(Thanks, Steve, for the link)

Canadian Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship

We discussed our Arctic Patrol Cutter earlier. This announcement of a alliance between Canada’s Washington Marine Group and European defense contractor Thales, to compete for a contract to build Canada’s Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) sounds more like a company news release than real reporting, but it gives an idea what the Canadians are doing–six ice breaking patrol ships at an estimated cost of  $2B (presumably Canadian $).

The ships would have patrol duties in other waters when the Arctic is not accessible. Who will operate these ships is still an open question. The stated intention is that they will be Canadian Coast Guard, but many in Canada feel they should be operated by the Navy, because the Canadian Coast Guard is more that of a civilian agency than a military force.

Germans to Place Pirates on Trial, a Refreshing Change

The German government apparently intends to prosecute pirates recently taken in custody by the Dutch frigate Tromp, after Dutch Marines fast-roped down from her helicopter to retake the ship.

Actually prosecuting pirates has been rare. In most cases they are released after apprehension. The problem has been finding a venue for the trials, compounded by the difficulty of getting witness to the trial site to testify. Kenya had agreed to provide a venue, but they have a backlog, and are now refusing to accept any more cases. There is currently a resolution before the UN, presented by the Russians, asking the UN to review the situation and make recommendations so that there will actually be some consequences to the crime, beside a good meal and medical treatment before being freed to try again.