Passing Through the South China Sea: Safety First|The Diplomat

As a crucial artery of trade for a number of the world’s largest economies, the South China Sea has garnered significant attention. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development ( UNCTAD)estimates that approximately 80 percent of worldwide trade by volume is transported by sea. Of that volume, 60 percent of worldwide maritime trade travels through Asia, with the South China Sea carrying an estimated one-third of worldwide shipping.

The South China Sea is therefore unquestionably a crucial industrial gateway for a considerable portion of the world’s merchant shipping, and an important financial and tactical subregion of the Indo-Pacific.

Shipping Occurrences in the South China Sea

In the area of South China Sea, Indonesia, and Philippines, Allianz Global Corporate Report reported that from 2007 to 2017, more than 252 shipping events occurred– the largest number of occurrences by region in the world. In 2017 alone, there were 30 shipping losses in this area, the leading rank in terms of shipping casualties and events worldwide. Losses consisted of actual total losses of ships along with useful overall losses recorded for vessels of 100 gross loads or over.

Many vessel losses in the South China Sea were from freight and fishery vessels. The leading 3 causes of losses were foundered vessels, wrecked/stranded vessels, and fire or surge. These causes generally are the outcomes of structural failure, flooding, and fire on board. In addition, human error and extreme weather condition are amongst the most significant factors to delivering incidents in the South China Sea, as well as in other regions.

Recommendations to Improve Ship Security

To avoid ships being lost, states, the shipping market, and other stakeholders must interact to reinforce the efficiency of ship safety control steps in three significant locations: ship structure strength; buoyancy and stability; and fire protection.

In regards to ship structure strength, ships need to be built highly enough to withstand the forces to which they are subject at sea. The strength of ships largely depends on their materials, the estimation of the steel density needed for security, and the combination of static forces along with vibrant forces.

Buoyancy and stability is the second key area of ship security control. Buoyancy can be specified as the sum of the down weight of the ship and the upward forces of the water, reflecting Archimedes’ principles. Stability is the ability of the ship to keep upright and to withstand heeling. Amongst factors that can impact buoyancy and stability are the ship’s optimum loading limitation, whether the sea is heavy or calm, the speed of the ship, and the ship’s design.

Fire defense is the 3rd key focus of maritime security. There are three elements of fire security that should be kept: namely, choice of products used in the building of ships; the existence of fire battling equipment; and special training for ships’ teams. By improving compliance with all of these procedures, the risks to ships at sea could be lessened.

As severe weather condition stays a substantial reason for maritime events worldwide, the function of meteorological companies is paramount. The arrangement of information and specific advice by meteorological firms to ships at sea is important.

Another crucial factor affecting the safety of navigation is the use or advancement of technology. Presently, safety-enhancing technology is currently finding its way into shipping, from crew tracking and electronic navigation, through shore-based monitoring of machinery.

Regional Cooperation Frameworks: Summary and Recommendations

In a local context, port states in the Asia-Pacific have developed the Tokyo Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Company, which has the objectives of developing a reliable port state control regime in the Asia-Pacific area through cooperation of its members and harmonization of their activities.

Another crucial organization handling maritime security affairs in the region is the Asia-Pacific Head of Maritime Safety Agencies (APHoMSA). The APHoMSA comprises the heads of maritime firms from a number of States in the Asia-Pacific, including China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam. It focuses on the development of local cooperation, marine environment defense, safety at sea, and maritime incident response.

In order to preserve and enhance the security of navigation in the South China Sea, specifies bordering the South China Sea should optimize their practical and concrete cooperation within the ASEAN-China Structure Joint Working Group. In particular, as presently ASEAN member states and China remain in the middle of working out the Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea, it is recommended that the CoC might integrate essential maritime safety components such as search and rescue, safe speed, and interaction treatments.

Another suggestion to enhance the safety of navigation in the South China Sea is that the littoral states might check out the possibility of adjusting a version of the Cooperative System (CM) that operates in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, and is arranged by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. The CM is a framework through which littoral states and other stakeholders in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore promote cooperation on upkeep and enhancement of the safety of navigation and defense of the marine environment in the Straits.

In conclusion, as shipping lane in the South China Sea add to around one third of world trade, the security of vessels passing through the South China Sea is important to the worldwide economy. More than one quarter of international shipping losses happen in the South China Sea, which has actually been the leading shipping loss hotspot for a decade. The total shipping loss in this region is practically double that of the next highest loss area, the East Mediterranean and Black Sea.

Preventive and cooperative methods need to be used in order to attend to the crucial threats to shipping (foundered vessels, wrecked/stranded vessels, and fire/explosion). States, the shipping market, and other stakeholders of shipping in the South China Sea need to ensure the efficiency of ship safety control in three significant locations: ship structure strength, buoyancy and stability, in addition to fire defense.

Strong cooperative procedures through different structures need to be heightened, including through the Tokyo MoU, APHoMSA, and ASEAN-China JWG as well as with other essential global companies including the IMO and International Hydrographic Company (IHO).

Muhammad Taufan works for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia. The view is his individual view and not of the Ministry.

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