Patrol vessel heads to Hawaii for joint exercises

Updated: 2012-08-25 02:30

By Shi Yingying in Shanghai and Zhao Shengnan in Beijing (China Daily)

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The Haixun 31 maritime patrol vessel, one of China’s biggest maritime patrol ships, will set out for its first visit to the United States on Saturday.

Scheduled to depart from Shanghai at 10:30 am, Haixun 31 is expected to arrive in Hawaii on Sept 4. It will be there for five days to work with the US Coast Guard on a series of maritime cooperation exercises, including a field test of joint search-and-rescues.

Issues such as Sino-US maritime safety management, water traffic safety and disaster relief will also be discussed.

"It’s our first time to send a maritime patrol boat to visit the US. It’s also our first time to send helicopters on a patrol ship for a long voyage," said Cao Desheng, deputy director of the Ministry of Transport’s water transport bureau, adding that the helicopters will be used for the marine search-and-rescue.

Gene Maestas, public-affairs officer of the Hawaii-based 14th Coast Guard District under the US Department of Homeland Security, confirmed the upcoming joint search-and-rescue operation.

"China’s largest maritime patrol ship will visit the US for the first time, which is part of the joint statement released by the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in May this year," Maestas told China Daily earlier this week.

"One of the topics during the dialogue was strengthening the ties and exchanges and improving a joint search-and-rescue operation at sea," he said.

The US and China have maintained frequent exchanges in maritime management, said Zhang Haiwen, deputy director of the China Institute for Marine Affairs.

Such exercises provide both countries an opportunity to learn from each other and to jointly improve their capability of maritime management and service, she said.

Shi Yinhong, an expert on Sino-US relations at Renmin University of China, said: "Even small actions could help promote Sino-US relations right now, and this visit is favorable" to promoting relations.

But Dong Manyuan, deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies, said there is still much room for both sides to improve on maritime cooperation, referring to jointly exploring the ocean resources.

Apart from the regular cooperation on oceanic safety, Haixun 31 will also be open to the US public for a day during its visit.

Meanwhile, there are concerns over whether typhoon Tembin will meet Haixun 31 on the way to Hawaii. Officials with the Maritime Safety Administration of China said Haixun 31 is able to resist winds with speeds under 31.6 meters per second.

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Zhou Wenting in Hawaii and Dong Fangyu in Beijing contributed to this story.