Amid tensions with Taiwan, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has claimed it recently used a 10,000 ton-class civilian ferry to conduct cross-sea landing drills.
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According to state-owned Global Times, this is the first time the PLA has used a large ferry for a military exercise. Earlier this month, The EurAsian Times reported that China is modifying civilian vessels for military use for the potential invasion of Taiwan.
Analysts have highlighted how China’s PLA has been increasing its amphibious assault capabilities in view of the US’ “growing interference” in the Taiwan issue
Previously, the PLA used thousand-ton class of civilian vessels to conduct amphibious landing exercises.
In the latest exercise, an armored vehicle unit of an amphibious combined arms brigade affiliated with the PLA 73rd Group Army used a civilian port and a civilian ferry ship in the cross-sea, long-distance troop transport exercises, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on August 18.
“It is common that the PLA makes use of civilian ferry ships for similar exercises. But this time, the ship used was a large one with a displacement of more than 10,000 tons, instead of smaller, thousand ton-class ones,” CCTV quoted Staff Sergeant Wang Hua as saying.
More than a dozen types of vehicles, including self-propelled howitzers, amphibious armored vehicles, and military trucks were loaded into the ‘Bohai Pearl’ ferry ship, CCTV reported.
It also noted that the drills simulated hostile ground and aerial attacks along with hostile satellites and drone reconnaissance during the loading process.
The ship is owned by the Bohai Ferry Group and according to the company’s website, the Bohai Pearl ferry ship has a displacement of 24,000 tons, with a length of 164 meters and width of 25 meters, and can carry more than 300 vehicles in decks.
The exercises lasted four days, and laid down the foundation for the troops’ systematic cross-sea and multidimensional maneuvering in the future, the CCTV report said.
PLA Modifying Civilian Ferries
According to reports, modification of civilian vessels for military use is something that China has been doing for some time. As reported by, The Eurasian Times, the PLA had earlier altered a 15,560 ton-class vessel, ‘Bang Chui Dao’, by outfitting it with a modified ramp, thus enabling it to launch and recover amphibious armored vehicles while offshore.
Bang Chui Dao is a civilian vessel owned and operated by COSCO Shipping Ferry Company since 1995.
According to Defense News, a modified ramp for the civilian ferries is a good development as this would enable them to launch and recover vehicles without dedicated port facilities. This is in contrast to typical roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) vessels, which have straight hydraulic ramps for vehicles to drive on or off while ships are in port.
However, the move can be seen as China’s desperate attempt at bolstering its amphibious assault ships. This is crucial for China if it wants to launch full-scale “Taiwan invasion” as a part of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) ‘One-China Policy’.
CPC has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan ever since the nationalist government had fled to the island in 1949. In recent years, the tensions between Beijing and Taipei have grown manifold with the US throwing its weight behind the self-governing island.
After repeated incursions of the Taiwanese airspace, the Chinese PLA began a series of amphibious landing exercises in the waters off the eastern coast of Fujian province, closer to the Taiwan Strait. Analysts have highlighted these actions as China’s retaliation to the increasing US interference in the Taiwan issue.
However, these analysts also claim that China does not have enough assault ships for transporting the huge number of troops required for conducting an all-out assault on Taiwan.
Taking this into consideration, China is also reportedly developing three Type 075 amphibious assault vessels and the third one was launched in January this year. Also, with this technology of using civilian ferries for military missions, China seems to have bridged the gap.
BY Kashish Tandon