China has approved new technical guidelines which make it mandatory for all civilian shipbuilders to construct their vessels for military use. These orders cover five categories of vessels: containers, roll-on/ roll-off, multipurpose, bulk carrier and break bulk, China Classification Society (CCS) said in a statement reported by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily.
CCS and PLA have jointly evolved these new specifications and design requirements, which have now been ratified as National Military Standard.
So far only state-owned shipbuilding firms in China were making civilian vessels as per military standards. This plan will enable China to convert the considerable potential of its civilian fleet into military strength and will greatly enhance PLA’s strategic projection and maritime support capabilities, according to the statement. Last month, China had issued a white paper which stresses on its ongoing transformation into a true maritime power, focused on greater high-seas presence and offensive naval operations.
In contrast, India has separate rules for combatant and non-combatant vessels. The Rules and Regulations for Construction and Classification of Indian Naval Combatant ships developed by Indian Register of Shipping have been released this month by Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral R K Dhowan. An official from IRCLASS confirmed to The Indian Express that it is not incumbent upon civilian shipbuilders in India to build their vessels to military specifications. Sources in the Indian Navy said that no proposal mandating military standards for civilian shipbuilders has been forwarded by them to the defence ministry.
China is meanwhile also working on a National Defense Transport Law which will reimburse shipbuilders for additional expenditure incurred in building ships up to military standards. According to the PLA Daily, the new law will also provide an insurance cover to the owners in case of any damage to their vessels when they have been requisitioned for military operations.
The United States had similarly used commercial vessels as naval auxiliaries during the Second World War. During the 1982 Falklands War, the United Kingdom had requisitioned 46 civilian vessels in support of the Royal Navy. Canadian government is currently examining a proposal to convert at least one commercial tanker into an interim supply ship for the Royal Canadian Navy.