China stirs up anxiety over new maritime law

PLA Navy Shandong Carrier (PLA Navy file image)

Posted on Sep 3, 2021 5:08 PM by

The maritime executive

Under a revised maritime traffic safety law released earlier this year, some foreign vessels sailing in waters claimed by China will be required to give notice to Chinese maritime authorities from September 1.

The controversial law requires foreign operators of submersibles, nuclear vessels, vessels carrying radioactive materials and vessels carrying bulk oil, chemicals, liquefied gas and other toxic and noxious substances to provide detailed information, including ship name, call sign, current position, cargo, port of call and estimated time of arrival.

Issued by the Maritime Safety Administration (MSA), the law provides for severe penalties and fines for non-compliant vessels and gives Beijing the power to order the departure of vessels that threaten the safety of the country’s internal or territorial waters. country.

“This law is drawn up with the aim of strengthening the management of maritime traffic, maintaining order in maritime traffic, ensuring the safety of persons and goods and protecting the rights and interests of the State”, indicates the law as revised and adopted by the National Chinese National. People’s Congress in April.

Although Beijing says the new law will apply to shipping and maritime safety, the focus on “sea areas under China’s jurisdiction” has fueled concern over shipping in the region. wider Indo-Pacific region.

China claims sovereignty over the vast majority of the South China Sea, including areas hundreds of kilometers beyond the 12nm limit accepted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The nation occupied and developed several islets in Paracel and Spratly Islands, building forward military bases equipped with air defense systems, strategic runways and jetties for warships.

“China is once again testing the international community to assess how it will react to the enactment of another maritime law that goes beyond the allowable jurisdictional limits of international law, as reflected by UNCLOS,” said Raul (Pete) Pedrozo, professor of international law. at the Stockton Center for International Law, in a recent review.

Pedrozo predicts that Beijing will use the new law to engage in gray area operations below the threshold of armed conflict, seeking to intimidate its neighbors and further erode the rule of law at sea.

In particular, the new law grants the MSA the power to establish vessel routing and reporting zones, traffic control zones and restricted navigation zones. Vessels crossing significant fishing waters, areas with heavy maritime traffic, ship routing areas and traffic control areas must increase their vigilance, maintain safe speeds and comply with special navigation rules.

The new law asserts that foreign warships and other government ships used for non-commercial purposes that violate Chinese laws and regulations during innocent passage should be treated in accordance with “relevant laws and administrative regulations.”

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