China Expands Offshore Oil Fleet for Contested Waters

On July 31, 2014, China announced a significant expansion of its fleet of offshore drill rigs and coast guard vessels ‘‘‘to protect‘ them.  Large state-owned energy majors, like China National Offshore Oil Corporation (and its sister company, China Oilfield Services) and smaller services providers have ordered more rigs and ships in the first half of this year than in any full year since 2010, with reportedly more on the way.  Their new rigs will be the size of China‘s largest ‘‘‘ the HYSY 961 ‘‘‘ which was deployed deep within Vietnam‘s territorial waters, and will be primarily used in the South China Sea. 

The growth of its fleet will enable China to explore and ‘‘‘plant its flag‘ in broad swaths of the South China and East China Seas that it claims.  China‘s official Xinhua News Agency reported that the aim of the fleet expansion is to strengthen maritime law enforcement, improve the protection of oceanic resources and better safeguard the country‘s maritime rights and interests.