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Countries join hands in maritime exercise
By Cao Desheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-07-07 06:08

SHANGHAI: A bulk freighter is at risk of exploding after colliding with a container ship and immediate emergency action needs to be taken that is the scenario of a maritime drill being held at the Yangshan Port in Shanghai today, the largest exercise of its kind ever held in China during peacetime.

Under the command of the state maritime safety authority, Shanghai maritime search and rescue centre will launch an emergency plan to organize local rescue forces - encompassing professional rescue workers, merchant vessels and military ships - and help the freighter out of trouble.

The drill is expected to last 70 minutes from 10:30 am and will involve rescuing drowning sailors, fire fighting, cleaning up oil pollution and thwarting a terrorist attack.

Japan and the Republic of Korea have sent vessels to join in the exercise. Maritime officials from the United States, Russia, the International Maritime Organization and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have also been invited to observe as China works to consolidate international maritime security cooperation.

More than 40 vessels and four maritime helicopters are expected to participate, sources from the administration said.

"Aimed at improving the efficiency of the rescue forces in responding to emergency maritime accidents, the drill should serve as a platform for our country to intensify regional partnership in the field of maritime safety and security," said the communications vice minister Xu Zuyuan, who is also general-commander of the exercise.

The exercise is also hoping to enhance understanding between China and ASEAN members as both sides agreed last November to work together in the construction of transport infrastructure and maritime safety and security, Xu said.

China boasts 18,000-kilometres of coast line, and increased sea traffic, fuelled by rapid economic growth, has increased the risk of accidents, making an efficient coastguard rescue force even more important.

Coupled with the surge in marine transport, oil spills have also increased. From 1973 to 2003, more than 2,350 oil spills occurred along the nation's coast.

(China Daily 07/07/2005 page2)

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