Smooth sail­ing for mar­itime res­cue

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By ZHAO LEI zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Thou­sands of for­eign na­tion­als stranded at sea have been res­cued by Chi­nese search and res­cue ships in the 10 years since the over­haul of the sys­tem.

Wang Zhen­liang, di­rec­tor of the res­cue and sal­vage bureau un­der the Min­istry of Trans­port, told China Daily in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view that more than 5,300 for­eign cit­i­zens and 347 for­eign ships were res­cued by Chi­nese mar­itime of­fi­cers from 2003 to 2012.

The largest-scale res­cue took place in May 2006, when sev­eral hun­dred Viet­namese fish­er­men and dozens of fish­ing boats were stranded by Typhoon Chanchu.

Ves­sels dis­patched by the Nan­hai Res­cue Bureau trav­eled 17 days and 11,500 kilo­me­ters and res­cued 330 Viet­namese fish­er­men.

“Res­cuers from our mar­itime res­cue and sal­vage sys­tem have per­formed more than 8,700 op­er­a­tions since 2003,” Wang said.

Wang’s of­fice ad­min­is­ters three res­cue bu­reaus, three sal­vage bu­reaus and four fly­ing res­cue squadrons.

A to­tal of 34,030 peo­ple who en­coun­tered dan­ger at sea and 1,873 ships were saved since 2003, he said.

Though China’s mar­itime res­cue and sal­vage sys­tem has ad­vanced tremen­dously over the past 10 years, it still lags be­hind in terms of deal­ing with large-scale oil spills and retriev­ing heavy ships, ac­cord­ing to the di­rec­tor.

In ad­di­tion, China is weaker than many coun­tries with ad­vanced mar­itime ca­pa­bil­ity when it comes to search and res­cue in un­fa­vor­able weather and in han­dling emer­gen­cies in deep wa­ter, he added.

“China is now able to send sal­vage work­ers into wa­ter 300 me­ters deep, but if some­thing hap­pens be­low that depth we could do noth­ing about it,” he said. “Some de­vel­oped economies are ca­pa­ble of op­er­at­ing un­der­wa­ter as deep as 600 me­ters.”

Mean­while, the mar­itime res­cue and sal­vage sys­tem in China is fac­ing big­ger risks of oil leaks as a re­sult of the na­tion’s ex­pand­ing out­put of gas and pe­tro­leum from the ocean and a re­mark­able surge in cargo ships pass­ing through China’s wa­ters.

Wang said 160,000 trips are made in China’s wa­ters by oil tankers each year.

“How to dis­pose of a large oil spill re­mains a tough ques­tion for mar­itime au­thor­i­ties around the world. Cur­rent so­lu­tions can’t com­pletely re­move the pol­lu­tants and they bring side ef­fects to the en­vi­ron­ment,” said Liu Jinzhang, an of­fi­cial at the Dong­hai res­cue bureau.

For of­fi­cers in the Nan­hai res­cue bureau, dif­fi­cul­ties in­clude lan­guage and cul­tural dis­par­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to Liu Haijun, pub­lic­ity head at the bureau.

The cen­tral govern­ment has in­vested heav­ily in mar­itime res­cue and sal­vage, Wang said.

“From 2003 to 2012, we built and bought more than 100 ad­vanced, well- equipped ves­sels and 10 helicopters. The im­prove­ment in fa­cil­i­ties, equip­ment and train­ing has en­abled us to op­er­ate in a hur­ri­cane of Level 12 (of the Beau­fort scale) in­stead of the pre­vi­ous Level 6,” he said.

His bureau’s emer­gency re­sponse ca­pa­bil­ity has also sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved. Res­cuers set out within 18 min­utes af­ter re­ceiv­ing calls for as­sis­tance, ac­cord­ing to the di­rec­tor.

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