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Indonesian Navy Keeps an Eye on China Coast Guard Mega-Cutter

CCG 2901
One of China's massive 12,000-tonne coast guard cutters, similar to CCG 5901 (U.S. Coast Guard)

Published Jan 16, 2023 7:22 PM by The Maritime Executive

The government of Indonesia has dispatched a naval vessel to keep an eye on a China Coast Guard mega-cutter which has been loitering in the Indonesian EEZ, the head of the Indonesian Navy told media over the weekend. 

China Coast Guard 5901, the world's largest coast guard vessel, has been operating in Indonesia's North Natuna Sea, a marginal area of the South China Sea within the Indonesian EEZ. The area is home to energy resources, including the Tuna gas field and the nearby Vietnamese Chim Sao oil field. The two sides recently agreed on a long-disputed boundary delimitation between their EEZs, opening the way for energy resource development.

Though the Chinese mainland is hundreds of nautical miles away, Beijing claims ownership of large swathes of this resource-rich area under its "nine-dash-line" policy, which would put the overwhelming majority of the South China Sea under Chinese jurisdiction. In the past, it has used its coast guard vessels to harass and intimidate Vietnamese and Indonesian E&P operators, shadowing offshore vessels and moving close in to drilling rigs. 

This time, CCG 5901 is behaving lawfully and "has not conducted any suspicious activities," Indonesian Navy chief Laksamana Madya Muhammad Ali told Reuters on Saturday. Nonetheless, given its history of interaction with China's "white hulls," Indonesia plans to keep a close eye on the vessel. 

Indonesia has periodically had to fend off Chinese fishing vessel fleets entering its EEZ under accompaniment by the China Coast Guard. China has claimed that its fishermen have "historical rights in the South China Sea," to include fishing rights in Indonesian waters.