Beijing curbs exports of big island-building diggers

Sales of dredgers to overseas customers banned on national security concerns

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 May, 2017, 11:46pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 May, 2017, 11:46pm

Beijing has restricted the export of big dredgers which it has used to build artificial islands in the South China Sea, citing national security concerns.

In a notice dated on Thursday, the Ministry of Commerce said that from June 1 all export deals for dredgers that might affect national security would require State Council approval.

The notice listed five types of dredgers that could dig more than 15 metres deep, had a large carrying capacity and could dredge at high speed.

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China has reclaimed more than 1,295 hectares of land in the southeastern South China Sea, according to a Pentagon report released in May last year.

Beijing has installed weapons on seven artificial islands, although it has repeatedly promised not to militarise the area.

Military analyst Zhou Chenming said that in building those islands, Beijing had developed advanced dredging technology that it did not want other countries to obtain, especially those in Southeast Asia with competing maritime claims.

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“Vietnam has longed for an advanced dredger that can speed up its island-building activities, and China certainly doesn’t wish this rival to have a comparable ability,” Zhou said. “China also does not want the world to take its valued dredging technology.”

China has Asia’s largest dredger, the Tian Jing Hao, which can extract 4,500 cubic metres of sand and rock per hour.

The dredger is owned by Tianjin Dredging Company, one of China Communications Construction Company Dredging’s three subsidiaries.

Tianjin Dredging operates most of the giant barges that have been digging sand from the seabed and piling it on remote coral atolls, including Mischief, Subi and Fiery Cross reefs.