I've spent sometime the last couple of days preparing for a more informative post on cutters from different Chinese coast guard/maritime surveillance agencies. This is my attempt at a comprehensive look at Chinese maritime enforcement.
I would say that a good place to start is by looking at the Law Enforcement Cutters section of the Sinodefence Naval Vessel Page. Generally speaking, there are five agencies with a large hand in China's maritime law enforcement. The picture below shows the agencies and what is the prefix for their ship names.
The first one listed in there is the China Maritime Surveillance (CMS) of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA). The CMS has the primary mission of patrolling China’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). A 2008 report in China Daily revealed that CMS had a total of nine aircraft and more than 200 patrol vessels. The largest CMS ship right now is Haijian-83. It is in 3000 ton class and here is an article on it
That is followed by the 1500-ton Haijian-51. This ship has gotten into numerous confrontations with the Japanese over at East China Sea.
The 1200-ton Haijian-27 (aka 1000t-class Type II) cutter.
The 1150-ton Haijian-17/46 (aka 1000t-class Type I) cutter
A new 600-ton design
There are more ships in CMS, but these are just an example of the ships. It also recently received two ships that used to be Type-037 patrol boats for PLAN.
In October 2008, CMS Deputy Director Sun Shuxian declared that, “The [CMS] force will be upgraded to a reserve unit under the navy, a move which will make it better armed during patrols … the current defensive strength of CMS is inadequate”. CMS has stepped up patrol in both South and East China Sea. The build-up in South China Sea is really significant because it comes on the heel of large PLAN SSF build-up and China's recent elevation of South China Sea to Tibet/Taiwan in terms of Sovereignty discussions. We all know about the numerous confrontations between China and USN in this area recently. We have also read about numerous issues with Vietnamese in the same area. It looks like CMS' desires to take over many of the duties currently conducted by SSF as that fleet is moving further blue sea. The diagram below is the organization of the South Sea branch of CMS.
Probably the more significant part is the tremendous expansion that is currently under way for CMS's South Sea branch. According to a June 2009 article, they are planning more cutters of 4000t, 1500t and 1000t class. In fact, we've already seen the first 1000t-class Type II launched in HP shipyard as Haijian-75. At the same time, a 1500t-class cutter is under construction next to the 5th 054A in the dry dock of HP. Rumour is that HP will build a total of 4 1000t-class, 2 1500t-class and 1 4000t-class. Either way, we are seeing a huge expansion of CMS.
The second listed ministry is the Fisheries Law Enforcement Command (FLEC) and its ships begin with the prefix YuZheng. FLEC is given the task of preventing illegal fishing activities in China’s coastal fisheries. The largest FLEC vessel to this date is YuZheng-88. It is actually converted from replenishment ship 888 that had just entered PLAN SSF a few years ago, so this is a 15,000t-class ship.
There are also several other large cutters in service like the 2500t-class Yuzheng-310 and 4000t-class Yuzheng-311
There are several other larger cutters like Yuzheng301 and Yuzheng303
The third listed ministry is the Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) of the Ministry of Transport. Its ships begin with the prefix Haixun or Haibiao. In terms of manpower, MSA exceeds any of the other maritime enforcement agencies with over 20,000 personnel, reflecting both the power of China’s commercial maritime interests generally, and the range of missions—from certifying seafarers to maintaining aids to navigation—that MSA oversees. MSA is headlined by the two largest ship in their inventory Haixun-11 and Haixun-31. They are both 3000t cutters.
Haixun-11 is built for Shandong branch of MSA
Haixun-31 is built for Guangdong branch of MSA.
There is also the 1500t-class Haixun-21 built for the Shanghai branch.
And here are a couple of other smaller MSA ships.
Despite having the most personnel, MSA does not have the most impressive fleet of cutters. The expansion of MSA is more even than CMS, with Shandong (next to yellow sea), Shanghai (next to East China Sea) and Guangdong (next to South China Sea) all getting their largest cutters. MSA cutters come together in South China Sea or East China Sea for patrolling exercises a couple of times a year. MSA will also be getting a 5000t-class cutter soon, which will be the largest and most modern cutter in service (if we don't include YuZheng-88).
The fourth listed ministry is the anti-smuggling force of the General Administration of Customs. Its ships begin with the prefix Haiguan. It is probably the ministry that has seen the least new ships. I guess that indicates the general lower rank of the customs. It just have a few smaller ships like below.
The fifth listed ministry is the Coast Guard (aka Maritime Police in Chinese), which is under the control of PAP. Despite its name, it is neither the largest or the most influential of the ministries. Its ships begin with the prefix Haijing.
The most modern vessel in its fleet is Haijing-1001.
It has received 2 ex-Jianghu class frigates which were given the numbers 1002 and 1003. I believe as more Jianghu ships get decommissioned, the coast guard maybe getting more of them.
I have also posted several other vessels below, but they are really not that modern compared to what we are seeing for some of the other ministries.
In summary, it looks like CMS and MSA are undergoing the largest expansions among the ministries. I believe much of those ships will be delivered to the branches serving the East and South China Sea. These are part of China's effort to have more control in the disputed waters. As with PLAN, civilian maritime fleet were seriously neglected until recent times. So even with the recent expansion effort, it is much smaller and less potent than US and Japanese Coast Guard. The different agencies are procuring more aircraft recently to help with maritime patrol, but they are still tiny compared to that of US and Japan. At the same time, I'm also wary about how so many agencies would be able to work together in offshore patrol. Even so, the maritime agencies (especially CMS and MSA) have indeed expanded and improved a lot in the recent year. And with all of the major recent incidents, they have only expanded the pace of their expansions. I am also interested in seeing how these civilian agencies interact with the navy in patrolling duties. For example, would PLAN delegate patrolling activities to these agencies and not bother with having an OPV class?
Regardless, I think this is one significant development in Chinese maritime aspirations that is not really covered that well by PLA-watchers like myself or foreign government agencies.