As my colleague Shannon Tiezzi reported a while back, the Chinese government has approved a plan to ensure that civilian vessels can support military operations of China’s maritime forces in the event of a crisis.
While the recruitment of civilian maritime assets for military purposes is not unusual (e.g., the Queen Elizabeth 2 transported the main British land fighting force to the Falkland Islands during the 1982 Falklands War), the recent announcement is nevertheless a sign of the growing aspirations of Chinese naval planners in developing naval expeditionary warfare capabilities.
According to the Chinese Ministry of National Defense’s website, China’s national transport war-preparedness office for national defense recently held a training session for Chinese shipping enterprises to familiarize the civilian shipping sector with a set of new guidelines, the Technical Standards for New Civilian Ships to Implement National Defense Requirements, in early June in Shanghai.
This document lays out the specific requirements for newly constructed civilian vessels to meet “national defense requirements”, the ministry website states. The guidelines, which were already approved in March 2015, are the result of a five-year research project by the Shipment Military Representative Office of the PLA Nanjing Military Area Command (MAC) and the CCS Shanghai Specification Institute.