Beijing deploys sensors in S. China Sea

HONG KONG • China has deployed its first batch of eight domestically produced floating sensors in the South China Sea as part of an international observation network, reported South China Morning Post yesterday.

These sensors will enable both civilian and military users to monitor the marine environment up to a depth of 2km using China's own Beidou satellite system, the project's lead scientist Xu Jianping said. By early next year, Beijing plans to increase the number of made-in-China sensors to 20, he added.

All of China's sensors, including the eight it deployed last month, form part of Argo, a global observation project involving more than 30 countries. The network manages more than 3,800 real-time sensors dotted across the world's oceans, gathering information that is shared by all the countries involved in the project. About 140 of the 3,800 floats are owned by China, Argo's latest release shows.

In August, Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli endorsed the team's suggestion to replace all imported sensors with made- in-China sensors.

Data collected from the made- in-China sensors is first sent to a Beidou receiving centre in Hangzhou for processing and then shared with an international database, said Mr Xu.

These are part of China's efforts to make the data centre in Hangzhou Argo's third global data centre, after the two located in France and the United States, reported the Post.

Analysts told the Post that China's participation will boost the nation's scientific knowledge about the disputed waters. Apart from recording data such as sea temperatures, salinity, oxygen concentrations and currents for marine and climate research, the sensors can gather information useful for weather forecasts, fishing and military activities. "Compared with other coastal seas, we do not have as much knowledge about the South China Sea because it is relatively deeper," said Mr Xu. "But now we have the technology to do more studies about it."

Macau-based military analyst Antony Wong Dong told the Post these sensors could potentially benefit China's People's Liberation Army Navy. "The sea environment changes fast. It will be really dangerous to deploy submersibles if they don't monitor the waters closely."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2016, with the headline 'Beijing deploys sensors in S. China Sea'. Print Edition | Subscribe