MALAYSIA– Chinese coast guard vessels are believed to still be hovering around the waters of Malaysia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) near Beting Patinggi Ali (or known as Luconia Shoals), which is rich in oil and gas resources.
The ships include the CCG 5901, also known as ‘The Monster’, which weighs 12,000 tonnes and is currently sailing just 55 nautical miles(nm) from the coast of Sarawak, Malaysia.
Reports of the voyage were made known by Raymond M. Powell, the Director of Project Myoushu at Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation, Stanford University, through his Twitter account @GordianKnotRay.
Powell, a former colonel in the US Air Force, stated that another Chinese coast guard vessel, the CCG 5302, was also detected in the waters of Malaysia’s EEZ.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982, a country’s sovereign waters extend up to 12 nautical miles from its coastline, while its EEZ extends up to 200 nautical miles from the coast.
Beting Patinggi Ali, located 84 nautical miles or 155 kilometers from the coast of Miri (specifically at Tanjung Baram), Sarawak, is clearly within Malaysia’s EEZ.
#China continues to operate two coast guard ships deep in #Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone near Luconia Shoals (Beting Patinggi Ali), including the world’s largest—CCG 5901—which weighs in at 12,000 tons and has approached within 50nm of Malaysia’s coastline.#southchinasea pic.twitter.com/mBlGQm14WD
— Ray Powell (@GordianKnotRay) February 25, 2023
In an earlier Twitter post on 20 February, Ray Powell had alerted that ‘The Monster’, the world’s largest coast guard vessel of the Zhaotou class have returned to the waters of Beting Patinggi Ali on February 18 to replace its companion, the Chinese coast guard vessel CCG 5303.
“Royal Malaysian Navy ship KD Keris has deployed to monitor it,” he wrote.
#China’s 12K-ton Zhaotou-class cutter 5901—the world’s largest coast guard ship, called “the Monster”—returned to #Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone 18 Feb, replacing CCG 5303 at Luconia Shoals (Beting Patinggi Ali).
Royal Malaysian Navy ship KD Keris has deployed to monitor it. pic.twitter.com/AB4YryxPYr
— Ray Powell (@GordianKnotRay) February 19, 2023
According to Defence Security Asia (DSA) , a news portal that covers military and security issues in Malaysia and the Asia-Pacific region, ‘The Monster’ was built in 2016 by Jiangnan Shipyard (江南造船(集团)) in Shanghai.
DSA stated that with a top speed of 25 knots, the giant vessel has been used by Beijing since 2017 to patrol the South China Sea to defend China’s maritime rights.
“Despite its enormous size, ‘The Monster’s’ main armament system is only a 76mm gun, two possible 30mm side guns, and a helicopter,” DSA reported.
According to the portal, ‘The Monster’ is also believed to carry several unmanned aerial vehicles and an Underwater Surveillance Vehicle (USV).
“The size of the CCG 5901 is so large that its presence in any location in the South China Sea is given serious attention by littoral countries in the region, as it symbolically represents the size of China itself, as well as the pressure and ‘power’ of a larger country over its much smaller neighbor,” DSA warned.
According to The Maritime Executive, the presence of CCG 5901 near Indonesia’s North Natuna Sea last month also created a tension in the region.
The government of Indonesia has dispatched a naval vessel to monitor the China’s mega-cutter, which has been operating in Indonesia’s North Natuna Sea within Indonesia’s EEZ.
The area is rich in energy resources, and China claims ownership of large parts of it under its ‘nine-dash-line’ policy, which has been deemed illegal by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.