China's civilian ships to be military-ready

BEIJING - The Chinese government has approved a plan requiring civilian shipbuilders to ensure that new ships can be used by the military during an emergency, said a state-run paper.

The plan will "enable China to convert the considerable potential of its civilian fleet into military strength", said the China Classification Society, a shipping industry association, reported the China Daily yesterday.

It will also improve the People's Liberation Army's"strategic projection and maritime support capabilities", the report added.

"Modern naval warfare often requires the mobilisation and deployment of a large number of ships while the mass production of naval ships in peacetime is not economically sensible," the paper quoted PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute researcher Cao Weidong as saying.

"The new standards will help translate the private shipbuilding sector's strength into military prowess," he added.

The regulations require five categories of vessels - container, roll-on/roll-off, multipurpose, bulk carrier and break bulk - to be modified to "serve national defence needs", the China Daily said.

The Technical Standards for New Civilian Ships to Implement National Defence Requirements is the result of a five-year research project by the shipping body and the military, the paper said. The report said China had about 172,000 civilian ships at the end of last year, suggesting the measure could be a big boost to its navy. The government will cover the costs of the plan.

China has ramped up defence spending to modernise its forces, the world's largest, which are gaining experience in operating far from its coast, especially the navy, which has been rapidly expanded in recent years.

In a defence strategy paper last month, China vowed to continue growing its "open seas protection" and criticised neighbours who take "provocative actions" on its reefs and islands.

Last month it said it will project its military power farther beyond its borders at sea and more assertively in the air, defending the construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea, which has sparked concerns in Washington.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2015, with the headline 'China's civilian ships to be military-ready'. Print Edition | Subscribe