In the month of August-September, 2019, a Chinese surveyor Vessel, Shiyan 1 violated the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of India in the Andaman Sea. The vessel was reportedly asked to leave by the Indian Navy which dispatched a warship on when it first sighted the vessel.
Here I try to analyse in depth the entire action taken by the Indian Navy.
What is Shiyan-1 ?
Shiyan 1 is a Research Vessel is jointly built by the Institute of Acoustics-(IOA), the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology-(SCSIO) and Shenyang Institute of Automation-(SIA) of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
It is the first vessel in service that could be considered as the large-scale CCS classification SWATH (Small Water-plane Area Twin Hull) catamaran type with AC variable frequency electric propulsion system. The Ship has many advanced features which can support scientific investigation of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary among acoustics, physical oceanography, marine geology in coastal waters, open sea and ocean.
The Ship has a length of 60m, width 26m, tonnage 2,560 tons, and a total weight of 3,071 tons. Designed with a full steel structure , it is able to travel 8,000 nautical miles in a run, at a top speed up to 15 knots, with an endurance that can last for 40 days.
How the Vessel Entered Indian EEZ?
In May 2010, Shiyan 1 had docked up in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Immediately before the incident off Port Blair , Shiyan 1 had docked about 400 Nautical Miles away at Phuket on 20th Aug 2019 . This was a pre-planned deployment as the approach towards Andaman from Phuket along the Thai Coast would have not raised immediate suspicion.
The Ship then intially moved towards Myanmarese Territorial Waters and entered Indian EEZ from the North along the Coco Island.
Why the existence of Shiyan 1 was seen as threat by Indian Navy?
The Andaman Islands are central to Indian's Maritime Security. In case of an Sino-India conflict , the Indian Navy can potentially block all shipping emerging out of the Mallaca Straits .That could have a devastating impact on Chinese Sea Borne trade.
The Shiyan 1 is equipped with Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCPs) which direct sound waves into the water column; returning echoes provide information on the direction and speed of undersea currents. Multi-beam echo sounders use pulses of sound to obtain precise measurements of ocean depth and contours.Very important data to prepare navigation charts which may help Chinese Submarines to lurk undetected around the Andaman Islands. Deployment of underwater gliders such as the Sea Wing. Because of their endurance and economy, gliders make excellent platforms for measuring basic characteristics of the undersea environment, such as temperature and salinity.Helpful in refining the performance of SONARS.
Factors such as ocean temperature, density, and salinity directly affect all manner of naval operations, from basic navigation to amphibious landings. In the words of one PLAN analyst, “the side with fuller, more accurate, and timelier mastery of the ocean battle-space environment will have the initiative on the battlefield.”
How Indian Navy drove away Shiyan 1 from Indian Sea?
Shiyan 1 was reportedly engaged in 'research activities' around 200 Nautical Miles off Port Blair. It was first sighted by a Indian Navy Doriner-228 Maritime Patrol Aircraft. A warship was duly dispatched which ordered the vessel to leave. The incident took place in around August-September 2019.