According to the Global Times, China's March 10 launch of the 4450 ton escort vessel "China Fishery Administration 311" in Guangzhou is a signal of China's assertion of sovereignty over the South China Sea.
China Fishery Administration 311. [Global Times]
The former Chinese warship, which has a top speed of 37 km per hour, was transferred to the South China Sea Fisheries Bureau at the end of 2006.
The ship will mainly carry out escort duties and sea rescue operations in China's exclusive economic zones (EEZ), Zhongsha Islands/the Macclesfield Bank, and Beibu Bay.
In recent years Chinese fisheries administration ships have encountered harassment by foreign warships when carrying out missions in disputed areas, and Chinese fishermen have frequently been illegally detained.
Surrounding countries have taken part in a scramble for sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands. In mid-February, the Philippines Congress passed a territorial Sea Baseline Bill, laying claim to China's Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) and a number of islands in the South China Sea. On March 5, Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi landed on Swallow Reef and Ardasier Reef, and announced Malaysia's claim to sovereignty over the islands. China condemned both actions.
Deputy Inspector of the South China Sea Fisheries Bureau Liu Tianrong said, "Through its fishing and escorting activities, China has always asserted sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands. Bringing "China Fishery Administration 311" into service is intended to enhance China's management of its fisheries."
Wu Zhuang, chief of the South China Sea Fisheries Bureau, told Global Times that over the next three to five years the bureau intends to further expand its fleet in order to safeguard China's sovereignty. The bureau is currently building a new 2500 ton vessel equipped with helicopter landing and take-off facilities. The ship is expected to be launched next year.