Sunday, January 20, 2013

China's recent expansion of the maritime agencies

One of the things that I've been really focusing on in the past few months is the recent dramatic expansion of China's civilian maritime force. Much of this is caused by the border disputes with Japan, Vietnam and Phillipines. I think another part of this is the Chinese government supporting its domestic shipbuilding industry during the recent downturn in the global shipbuilding market. Before we start, here is a refresher course on what each of the agencies are about.

First, let us focusing on the expansion of CMS (Chinese Maritime Surveillance), which is beneficiary of the majority of the new cutters. From 2008 to 2011, CMS received 11 new large cutters with one of 3000+ ton class (Haijian-50), two of 1500+ ton class (84, 15) and 4 of 1000+ ton class (75、23、66、26). After that, we received the news 36 new cutters of 600 to 1500 ton for provincial CMS. Table below shows which provinces are getting them and where the cutters are built at and for how much.


Looking at this list, you can see that HP and WC are building the large cutters of 1000+ and 1500+ class, whereas the smaller cutters of 600 ton class are being built by less known shipyards like Guijiang, Huanghai, Tianjin, Xijiang, Chongqing, Nanhuang and Fuman. It's interesting that so many of the not well known smaller shipyards are involved in the process. Out of these, only Guijiang and possible Xijiang+Tianjin have really built cutters or auxiliary ships for PLAN. The cost of the cutters range from 53 million RMB ($8.5 million) for a 600 ton cutter at a smaller shipyard to 126 million RMB ($20 million) for a 1500 ton cutter at HP shipyard. Cost also varied based on the number of cutters that province has on order with the particular shipyard. Looks like each provincial CMS held some kind of RFP by itself.

On top of these new ships to be built in the period up to 2015, we have seen 11 PLAN ships converted and transferring to CMS in the past year. They include decommissioned 051 ships (131, 162), 814 Minelayer, North Sea Tug 710, Ice breaker 723, 852 ELINT ship and several auxiliary ships. So there is a variety of ships that are entering CMS for different roles.

On top of this, the bidding for a fresh wave of CMS ships have been decided or still ongoing. They include 2 12000 ton cutters to be built by JN shipyard, 4 5500 ton + 5 4000 ton cutters by WC shipyard and 4 5000 ton + 5 4000 ton cutters by HP shipyard. WC agreed to those 9 cutters for a total of 2.5 billion RMB ($400 million USD). There are 6 3500 ton cutters that have yet to be decided. The table below shows an estimate of 1000+ ton for different agencies by ocean districts. About 2/3 of those ships will be serving in CMS.


Looking at this list, the next largest bloc belongs to FLEC. Similar to CMS, it has also been getting many converted ships from PLAN. The largest of which is YuZheng-88, which was converted from the 888 replenishment ship. Currently, only one major cutter and a bunch of smaller 300-ton cutters are on order for FLEC. However, plans have been drawn up for 11 3500-ton class and 3 1500-ton class ships. Outside of CMS, we've also seen FLEC most often in disputed areas around Diaoyu/Senkaku islands.

Next on the list is Haiguan (General administration of customs), which has historically been the weakest of the 5 branches. It is also getting major upgrades. From the most recent news, it is getting 3 new 1500 ton class and 9 new 600 ton class cutters for a total of 1.8 billion RMB ($300 million). Interestingly enough, the speed and design requirements for these cutters are higher than the other cutters. The 600-ton cutter is suppose to reach over 30 knots with aluminum superstructure. The 1500-ton cutter is suppose to reach over 25 knots with two pumpjet driven propulsion. Most of the CMS ships only have speed requirements of 18 to 20 knots.

The last one on the list is Haijing (Maritime Police). Traditionally, these cutters have been the most armored ones. The charts below actually show the production of the most common type of Haijing ship the Type 618 and 618B cutters (in 600 ton class). They are mostly built by Guijiang shipyard. Going forward, it seems like they have a small number of larger cutters in 2000 and 3000-ton class planned, but are definitely not as ambitious as the other ones.



The one I did not talk about here is MSA, which in the past have had the most personnel, but really don't seem to be receiving many ships recently. Overall, the expansion of CMS and FLEC has really been impressive. Huangpu shipyard has been so busy with cutters that 056 production has been slowed down. WuChang shipyard is also extremely busy with them. With a lot of competition, the prices for the ships have been knocked down to under $10 million for the smaller ships and $20 million for 1500-ton class ships and $40-$50 for the 4000 to 5500 ton ships. The maritime surveillance ministries have certainly benefited from China's strong shipbuilding sectors. The only question is whether they can actually find enough qualified people to operate these ships and get enough aircraft to help patrol the disputed areas.

That's my major update for the 5 maritime agencies. I do apologize for having only Chinese characters in all the charts. I will be in China for two and half weeks, so will be out of commission for a while. Hoping to not miss out on any big news while I'm gone.

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