Monday, April 6, 2015

Cutter progress in Chinese shipyards

I last wrote about China's expansion of civilian maritime force here. Due to recent requests, I'm doing an update. Please note that as with all else Chinese shipbuilding related, the various programs do change and some new builds may have been mixed. This is my best attempt at summarizing what has happened in the past 2 years.

In the first part of that last post, I wrote about the expansion of CMS (Chinese Maritime Surveillance) provincial branches. From the table in that section, 36 cutters of 1500 ton, 1000 ton and 600 ton class were built for various provincial flotilla of CMS. Much of the building and launching activities happened in 2013 and 2014. HP shipyard, which builds most of the larger cutters, have delivered all of the cutters that they were contracted to build by middle of 2014. WC shipyard seems to have completed its share too. Even the smaller shipyards seem to have finished most if not all of their ships. So at this point, it looks like the provincial expansion have completed.

After this first expansion of provincial fleet, the Chinese Maritime Surveillance, now under the Coast guard, is undergoing a further expansion as mentioned in the second part of that post. That program consists of 2 12000 ton cutters to be built by JN shipyard, 4 5000 ton cutters to be built by WC shipyard, 4 4000 ton cutters to be built by HP shipyard and 10 more 3000 ton cutters to be built by HP and WC shipyard. Most likely, RFPs were sent out to the various shipyards around the country, but only a few shipyards in China are capable of building these larger cutters. The 2 12000 ton cutters were launched at JN shipyard this past few months and they are probably the first major cutter projects that JN shipyard has worked on. They are given the designations Haijing-2901 and 3901. It's unclear if more of this class will be built. The 4000 ton class cutters have been all delivered by HP shipyard as Haijing-1401, 2401, 3401 and 3402. It looks like those 3000 ton class cutters have now all been launched and commissioned into service with Coast guard. 3 of them are with the North Sea Flotilla, 4 with East Sea Flotilla and remaining 3 with South Sea Flotilla. In addition, works have been under way for the 5000+ ton class ships cutters with 3 of them (Haijing-1501, 2501, 3501) launched in the past few months at WC shipyard.

All of the work by HP shipyard were completed by the end of 2014, whereas WC is still in the middle of completing the 5000 ton class cutters and just most recently completed work for 3000 ton class cutters. All of this is somewhat surprising, because WC shipyard had taken the lion share of cutter constructions in the past, while HP is new to the game. I think the experience that HP gained from the 054A and 056 class projects really improved their ability in delivering ships on time. They are now rewarded with large orders for both naval ships and cutters. Back in 2013, CMS had joined the coast guard along with FLEC and customs as part of a consolidation of China's large maritime surveillance programs. Before that point, only the coast guard ships were allowed to be installed with naval gun. As part of this consolidation, all the newer large cutters for various arms of the consolidated Coast Guard are installed with naval gun. With all the maritime issues that China has with its neighbours, I think the ability to install naval and machine guns on these cutters is definitely a reason that pushed for the consolidation of the 4 agencies.

On top of the work for CMS, FLEC also had money to expand its fleet with 3000 ton and 1000 ton cutters. Since FLEC also merged into the coast guard, I found it hard to hard to determine which of the newer cutters are for its orders. There are a couple of new 3000 ton class cutters launched at both HP/WC shipyards like 3301 and 2301 that seem to fit the profile.

Of the 2 smaller agencies that consolidated, HaiGuan (Chinese customs) had an order for 3 1500-ton class cutter with electric propulsion and 9 600 ton class cutters. The 1500 ton class cutters are to be built by HP shipyard. The first of which was launched last year and has now been painted with Haijing-44104. The 600 ton cutters are built by Guijiang shipyard. Guijiang shipyard handles a large quantity of Coast guard's 600 ton class cutters. They were the first to built Type 618 and improved versions of Type 618 cutters for the old Chinese coast guard. They have continued to built Type 618B cutters for the new consolidated coast guard.

Since the last update, the majority of the programs have been completed or well under way. The old CMS agency has been delivered with most of the ships it had ordered, whereas FLEC still seems to be waiting for all of its ships. The new consolidated Coast guard agency have since started new programs. A year ago, they started projects for Type 818 patrol vessels (3000 ton class) and Type 718 cutters (2000 ton class), HP shipyard signed for 4 of the Type 818 and 5 of Type 718. It sounds like Hudong, guijiang and Zhejiang are also participating in these 2 programs. WC shipyard's involvement was not clear, although my guess is that it will be building them too. So, the Chinese coast guard build up is continuing over the next few years, but probably at a slower pace than the past 2 years.