Maritime safety authorities in China’s southernmost island of Hainan have taken delivery of an advanced ocean-going search and rescue vessel that will extend the service’s reach by hundreds of nautical miles into the disputed South China Sea . The Hainan Maritime Safety Administration commissioned the 5,560-tonne Haixun 03, or “sea patrol” in Mandarin, at its base in Haikou on Wednesday, according to state broadcaster CCTV. At more than 128 metres (420 feet) long, the vessel has a range of up to 10,000 nautical miles, can handle adverse weather and sea conditions, and transport 200 passengers in a single trip. The Hainan administration oversees waters that include a municipality in the disputed Paracel Islands , about 260 nautical miles from Haikou. The Paracels, known in China as the Xisha Islands and in Vietnam as the Hoang Sa Islands, are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. The Haixun 03 was built in Guangzhou by the Huangpu Wenchong Shipyard, a subsidiary of China State Shipbuilding Corporation, which develops both research vessels and warships. The ship is equipped with a drone and a mid-sized helicopter and was designed for various functions, including maritime patrol and rescue, firefighting and monitoring oil spills. Zhang Jie, an expert on the South China Sea at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said most of the previous vessels commissioned by the Hainan administration were less than 1,000 tonnes and had a limited patrol range. “The enforcement power of the Hainan administration has been upgraded with the commissioning of the Haixun 03, because now their inspectors can not only go to the Paracel Islands, but also sail to the Spratly Islands more than 1,200km (745 miles) from Hainan,” Zhang said. He said the ship could support the rescue centre on Subi Reef in the Spratlys . China set up a permanent rescue centre on Subi , one of the country’s three artificial islands in the Spratlys, in 2019, with a flying squadron and maritime rescue team stationed there since last year. ‘Not expelled’: US Navy rejects PLA claims of ‘illegal’ South China Sea passage Zhang Mingliang, a Southeast Asian affairs expert with Jinan University in Guangzhou, said that while the ship could provide better maritime rescue and search services, it would also raise vigilance among some Southeast Asian neighbours involved in territorial disputes with Beijing. “Countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia are sceptical about China’s increasing maritime ability because none of their naval warships can compete with Chinese maritime patrol ships,” Zhang Mingliang said.