Chinese research ship returns to Maldives: The 'Xiang Yang Hong 03' story explained in 5 points

The same vessel was present near the India-Maldives-Lanka trilateral 'Dosti-16'

Mohamed Muizzu Maldives' President Mohamed Muizzu (R) addresses the media | AFP

The growing Beijing influence on Maldives was on the news again after a 4,500-tonne high-tech Chinese research ship is back in the Maldivian waters, two months after it spent a week docked at different ports in the nation. "Xiang Yang Hong 03" was docked at the Thilafushi industrial island's harbour on Thursday morning, news agency PTI reported quoting a local portal.

Maldives has not officially explained the circumstances for the ship's return to its shores. According to PTI, Male had previously confirmed permitting for the ship to dock before its first visit. It was days after President Mohamed Muizzu's pro-China People's National Congress won the general election, securing 66 out of the 93-member People's Majlis.

Here is what you need to know about the development so far:

1. Xiang Yang Hong 03: The only 4,500-tonne vessel currently in China, the 100-metre-long vessel was added to the fleet of China's State Oceanic Administration (SOA) in 2016. Since 2019, Beijing has also been using the vessel to conduct distant water' and deep sea' surveys at China's Pilot Ocean Laboratory.

China's State Oceanic Administration (SOA), which manages the Xiang Yang Hong 03, stating that the ship is the most modern vessel manufactured in the country for marine research. China says it is a comprehensive research vessel, meaning it is equipped for more than one task.

According to China, the boat's endurance is 15,000 nautical miles, which means it could travel 15,000 nautical miles nonstop for its work without assistance.

2. "Research" vessel: The vessel can "also be used for studies on salinity, microbial genetic studies, underwater mineral exploration, and underwater life and environmental studies. It has data buoys that can measure ocean currents, waves, and important environmental information. These buoys will provide real-time satellite information to the Chinese government, the report then said.

3. Previous docking: In February, the Maldivian Foreign Ministry had said the Xiang Yang Hong 3 was here to make a port call, for the rotation of its personnel and replenishment after a diplomatic request was made by the government of China to the government of Maldives. The vessel would not be conducting any research while in the Maldivian waters, the Foreign Ministry said on January 23.

4. Presence at the EEZ: Xiang Yang Hong 03 has been active inside or near Maldives territory since January. The ship has now come back after skirting the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The ship had earlier docked on February 23 at the same Thilafushi port, about 7.5 km to the west of Male. The hi-tech ship reached Maldivian waters on February 22 after spending about a month near the boundary of the Maldives' EEZ. About six days later, the ship went back to the EEZ boundary.

5. Previous citing:The same vessel was present near the India-Maldives-Lanka trilateral 'Dosti-16' exercise Incidentally, the same Chinese vessel was present near the India-Maldives-Sri Lanka trilateral 'Dosti-16' exercise that took place in the ocean near Male between February 22 and 25, PTI said.

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