Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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China’s Colossal Coast Guard Cutters Seen to Rule High Seas

Rising Maritime Superpower

(Photo : Reuters) The Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant, (R) a 210 foot cutter homeported in Cape Carnival, Florida, escorts the M/V China Breeze into port after finding tons of cocaine aboard, May 27 near Puerto Rico.

China's upcoming super-endurance Coast Guard cutters, which weigh beyond 10,000 tons, may yet be the latest and clearest sign of Beijing's rising maritime power in the pursuit of extra-territorial goals, according to security analysts.

Analysts say China's new class of Coast Guard vessels are so big, they will be a half larger than U.S. Ticonderoga Class Guided Missile Cruisers.

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Currently, two of these vessels are being built at Shanghai's Jiangnan Shipyard. Reports said one of them is in the early stages of finishing while the other has been painted and ready to be fitted with mission gear and navigation systems.

These vessels are expected to hit 25 knots and they will have two gun turrets, large cannons, two anti-aircraft equipment with the ability to carry a couple of Z-8 multi-role choppers. Analysts said these helicopters, could move material and troops very fast without a port.

Strategically, each ship can be sent to one of China's disputed maritime areas, such as the East China Sea's Senkaku Islands which are also claimed by Japan. The existence of Japan's big Shikishima Class vessels which weigh more than 9,000 tons may have prompted the Chinese to build such a huge duo of Coast Guard ships themselves.

Another sea flashpoint where these gargantuan Coast Guard patrol ships could be sent is the South China Sea where China is busy building islands. Neighboring countries, analysts say, see such efforts as a clear attempt to police coveted fishing grounds and strategic shipping lanes in the area.

The Philippines, Malaysia and other Southeast Asian nations have tried similar tactics in securing maritime territory but China has thrown its weight to protect its island building initiative while also pitting its maritime abilities against smaller neighbors.

The most important benefit to China's super cutters is treading the high seas way father from home and display power without being too belligerent. Coast Guard ships as big as the ones being constructed in Shanghai could roll in the high seas for several weeks at a time without requiring bunker ships.  They could be deployed as a powerful makeshift sea-base in territories where landmass is scarce. 

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