Whaling Conundrum

gCaptain reports that the Japanese will resume whaling in spite of rulings against it by the International Court of Justice and the International Whaling Commission.

Mostly, whaling has been done in the waters off Antarctica, although there has been some Arctic Whaling, where the US currently makes no specific territorial claim, but has reserved the right to make claims at a later date. Leaving the policing of these waters by others may be seen as weakening any future US claim and strengthening the hand of Nations that actually police these waters.

Will the US in the person of the Coast Guard attempt to stop Japanese whaling in either the Arctic or the Antarctic?

The Chinese Coast Guard to Build World’s Largest Offshore Patrol Vessel–and More

This is a post I prepared for CIMSEC. It reiterates material we’ve already discussed, but also adds some additional thoughts.

File:JapanCoastGuard Shikishima.jpg
Japanese Coast Guard Cutter Shikishima, this class of two are currently the largest offshore patrol vessels in the world. Photo from Japanese Wikipedia; ja:ファイル:JapanCoastGuard Shikishima.jpg
Since its formation in 2013 by the consolidation of four previously independent agencies into a single entity (notably excluding the SAR agency), the Chinese Coast Guard has been experiencing phenomenal growth and has become China’s instrument of choice in its “small stick diplomacy” push to claim most of both the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
They commissioned two 4,000 ton cutters in January alone. It appears the growth will continue. The Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Company has just been awarded a contract for four new 5,000 ton cutters, and China Ship-building Industry Corporation has been contracted to build two additional surveillance ships, one of 10,000 tons and another of 4,000-tons.
The US Coast Guard’s largest patrol cutters are the 418 foot, 4,500 ton full load Bertholf Class National Security Cutters. The illustration that accompanies the story of the four new 5,000 ton cutters shows a ship, in many ways similar to the National Security Cutter. It appears there is a medium caliber gun on the bow. (This would be a significant but not unexpected change for the Chinese Coast Guard.) There is a frame over what appears to be a stern ramp not unlike that on the NSC. The hull shape also appears similar to the NSC.
The “10,000 ton” cutter is likely to look similar to the Japanese Coast Guard’s two 492 foot, 9,350 full load, Shikishima class high endurance helicopter carrying cutters seen in the illustration above, but they may actually be much larger. Comparing their new ship to the Japanese cutters, the displacement of the Japanese ships was quoted as 6,500 tons, their light displacement. If the 10,000 tons quoted for the Chinese cutter is also light displacement, it could approach 15,000 tons full load. As reported here the new Chinese OPV will have a 76mm gun, two 30mm, facilities to support two Z-8 helicopters, and a top speed of 25 knots.
The size of the helicopters is notable. The Z-8 is a large, three engine, 13,000 kg helicopter based on the Aérospatiale SA 321 Super Frelon. The transport version of this helicopter can transport 38 fully equipped troops. The same airframe is also used for SAR, ASW, and vertical replenishment.
Undoubtedly the new vessels tonnage would give it an advantage in any sort of “shoving match” with vessels of other coast guards, but why so large?
The original justification for the Japanese cutters was to escort plutonium shipments between Japan and Europe, but the second cutter was built long after that operation was suspended, so clearly the Japanese saw a different justification for the second ship of the class.
Even so the Chinese ship may prove larger still. Other than prestige, why so large? China’s EEZ is small (877,019 sq km) compared to that of the US (11,351,000 sq km) or even Japan’s (4,479,358 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 only 3,877,019 sq km, and patrolling it does not require the long transits involved in patrolling the US or even the Japanese EEZ.
10,000 tons is about the size of a WWII attack transport, and with its potential to embark two large helicopters China’s new large cutter could certainly exceeds the capability of WWII destroyer and destroyer escort based fast transports (APD). Using its helicopters and boats it could quickly land at least an infantry company as could many of the smaller cutters. Chinese Coast Guard ships are already a common sight throughout the contested areas of the South China and East China Seas. Will Asia wake up some morning to learn there have been Chinese garrisons landed throughout the contested areas by the now all too familiar Chinese Coast Guard Cutters.

Chinese to Build World’s Largest Cutter

File:JapanCoastGuard Shikishima.jpg
Japanese Coast Guard Cutter Shikishima, this class of two are currently the largest offshore patrol vessels in the world. Photo from Japanese Wikipedia; ja:ファイル:JapanCoastGuard Shikishima.jpg

German Navy blog “Marine Forum” reports (21 January) that the

China Ship-building Industry Corporation has been contracted with developing and building a 10,000-ton and another 4,000-ton surveillance ship.
(rmks: for paramilitary China Coast Guard or China Marine Surveillance)

Meanwhile, in a move designed to bolster their claims in the South China Sea, they also report,

With Vietnam: China will expand paramilitary infrastructure at Sansha City (Paracel Archipelago) in the South China Sea … permanently base a 5,000-ts patrol ship (rmks: prob. China Marine Surveillance – CMS) and begin regular patrols.

Don’t expect China’s new 10,000 ton cutter to look like a US Coast Guard Cutter. The Chinese seem to measure their Coast Guard primarily in comparison to the Japanese Coast Guard which has until now operated the largest cutters in the world, two 9,350 full load, Shikishima class high endurance helicopter carrying cutters. Like their Japanese counterparts, they are likely to be built to merchant standards, will be only lightly armed, but will have excellent aviation facilities. The additional tonnage is likely to give them an advantage if they get in a “shoving match” with opposing coast guards, and they are likely to have a secondary military transport role. With a relatively large number of boats, they could probably land a fair number of personnel in a relatively short time. By way of comparison the National Security Cutters are 4,500 tons full load.

Japanese Whalers and Sea Shepherds Come to Blows.

gCaptain is reporting, the Japanese have decided to play hard ball, or at least bumper cars, with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s vessels when they attempted to prevent an underway replenishment of a Japanese factory ship.

Reportedly two Sea Shepherd ships were rammed repeatedly. I would call what they did “shouldering” rather than ramming, because, to me at least, the video clearly shows they were attempting to push the protest vessels out of the way, rather than sink them.

The Japanese Coast Guard is also accused of throwing concussion grenades at Sea Shepherd vessels.

Conflict between Japan and Two Chinas coming to a Head?

Up to six Chinese law enforcement agency vessels, roughly analogous to Coast Guard Cutters, have entered the territorial waters of islands administered by Japan, and Japanese Coast Guard Cutters responded. It does not look like the disagreement is going to go away quietly. Anti-Japanese anger is being nurtured in China. Both China and Japan are preparing for a leadership change, and no one wants to look weak.

File:Senkaku-Diaoyu-Tiaoyu-Islan.jpg

Illustration: from CIA map

A good summary of events is here. A second source indicates the Chinese have “1,000” fishing vessels en route.

“And, whether we like it or not, Washington is involved.

The Chinese have taken an additional step and filed a claim on the islands with the UN describing its interpretation of where the baselines are drawn and enacted a national law that,

“prohibits foreign warships and vessels from entering the waters around the Diaoyu Islands without permission from the Chinese government.”

This seems to reflect China’s broader interpretation of the ability of a state to restrict access to its EEZ.

If the situation were not complicated enough, don’t forget there is a third party here, who are also inserting themselves in the mix. Taiwan also claims these islands and have also sent their Coast Guard into the area.

Photos of some of the players here.