The Chinese fisheries research vessel named Nan Feng has been detected and is suspected to be conducting scientific marine research without permission in Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Nan Feng is a research vessel owned by the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences (CAFS) from China. The vessel was detected operating in the North Natuna Sea on May 2, 2023.
Departing from Guangzhou on April 13, 2023, Nan Feng made several stops in the South China Sea, including Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands. Fiery Cross Reef is one of the coral islands occupied by China in the South China Sea.
After Fiery Cross Reef, Nan Feng was observed slowing down as it entered Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
“Based on its trajectory, the Nan Feng vessel is suspected to have conducted hydroacoustic surveys without permission in these stopover areas, including the North Natuna Sea,” said Imam Prakoso, Senior IT Analyst at IOJI.
IOJI’s report regarding the presence of the Nan Feng vessel aligns with Article 31 of Government Regulation No. 13/2022: “In the event of suspected legal violations or accidents in Indonesian Waters and Indonesian Jurisdictional Waters, ships and/or the public are obligated to immediately report to the center for maritime safety and security information.”
IOJI has been conducting maritime security detection and analysis since 2021. Prior to Nan Feng, IOJI detected the presence of the Chinese geological research vessel Hai Yang Di Zhi 10 operating in the same location in the North Natuna Sea. Similar to Nan Feng, two years ago, Hai Yang Di Zhi 10 was suspected of conducting scientific marine surveys without the Indonesian government’s permission.
Similar activities were carried out by other Chinese research vessels in Indonesian waters in 2020. However, the difference lies in the fact that Hai Yang Di Zhi 10’s activities lasted longer and had higher intensity compared to other Chinese research vessels in 2020.
Scientific research activities in Indonesia’s EEZ can only be conducted with the approval/permission of the Indonesian government, as stipulated in Article 56(1) and 246 of UNCLOS 1982, and Article 7 of Law No. 5 of 1983 concerning the Exclusive Economic Zone.
The presence of these vessels in Indonesia’s EEZ is believed to be part of China’s unilateral assertion of the “Nine-Dash Line” claim in the South China Sea.
If the strongly suspected illegal scientific research activities are indeed being carried out, then the Chinese government would be violating Indonesia’s sovereign rights and failing in its obligation of due regard as a flag state.