China sends new vessels to fish Russian waters in cooperative deal

Published on
March 31, 2015

China took another step towards consolidating its hold on Russian fisheries with the launch of the first in a batch of vessels built to fish Russia’s far eastern waters.

Chinese and Russian officials toasted the launch of two vessels, the Xiang Hailin 7 and the Xiang Hailin 8, which were launched recently at the Binhai shipyard in the coastal city of Lushun. Even though the vessels are painted in the colours of the Russian flag and are named in Mandarin and Cyrillic lettering, “the vessels will operate under the control of the Chinese side,” according to a statement from the Dalian Ocean and Fisheries Bureau, which organized the launch ceremony.

Officials from the bureau joined Russian bureaucrats to mark the launch of the vessels, which have now sailed to the Sakhalin region of Russia, a large island in the North Pacific Ocean just off the east coast of Russia, and just north of Japan (of which it was once part). The island has long been a major base for Pacific/pink salmon catch and processing operations.

The vessels are being operated by Dalian Xiang Hailin Long Distance Fishing Co., which claims to have invested CNY 60 million (USD 9.6 million; EUR 8.4 million) on four large vessels (the remaining two will be launched later this year), which will ultimately ply the Russian seas under a cooperation deal signed during a meeting between Chinese and Russian fishery officials last year in Beijing. The deal has also been endorsed by the Liaoning Province Association of Sino-Russian Cooperation, a state-funded body that has been promoting deals with Russia that give access to Russian land and waters to the comparatively populous Chinese regions bordering sprawling Siberia.

Officials in Dalian are upbeat about securing long-term access to Russian waters. “Sakhalin is a key region because it has the richest fishery resources in Siberia…it has 11 percent of the fishery resources of the entire Russia,” according to a document, seen by Seafoodsource, circulated by the central fisheries bureau at the department of agriculture in Beijing.

Dalian officials say the cooperation will be stepped up under the national government’s plan to build a “Maritime Silk Road,” part of China’s plan to better connect its economy with trading territories and markets (it has similar plans to access central Asia through an overland Silk Road).

“It is strategically important to increase our cooperation with overseas fishing partners to secure access to resources,” noted the statement from the Dalian Ocean and Fisheries Bureau. “Dalian companies are becoming more familiar with the Sakhalin region and will increase their cooperation in fisheries processing and trade and other ways [with Sakhalin]” added the statement.

The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is part of China’s ambitious plans to with the rest of Asia and key trading partners like Europe — but also providers of resources like Africa and the Middle East. The maritime Silk Road aims to open up access in particular to the South China Sea, the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean. One of the most commonly used phrases in Chinese officialdom and propaganda sheets over the past year is “one belt, one road,” referring to the sea (belt) and road which will increase Chinese access to resources and markets. China will also fund the renovation and enlargement of 15 ports around its shores under the Maritime Silk Road plan.

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