• Chinese Ship Shi Yan 1 entered Indian territorial waters in September 
  • Indian Navy expelled the ship after it was spotted by a surveillance aircraft
  • China instructed its research workers to get permission before working in foreign waters

China has instructed its researchers to comply with international maritime laws by obtaining advance permission from coastal states before conducting scientific work in waters controlled by those states, following a report that a Chinese ship was expelled from the Indian waters.  

A ship belonging to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shiyan-1, was caught carrying out research activities off India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands in September.  After a surveillance aircraft spotted the ship in the islands’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which extends up to 200 miles from the coastline, the Indian navy dispatched a warship to expel the ship.

The Chinese foreign ministry Thursday issued instructions to its institutions, groups, and individuals aiming to conduct marine research to ask for an “explicit statement of conduct” from other countries before conducting research in foreign waters.

“Institutions or individuals… must comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), obey the law of the country, follow the research program approved by the coastal state, and shall not conduct scientific research in the waters under foreign administration without making application or without the application being approved,” the notice stated.

The UNCLOS allows coastal states to claim 200 nautical miles of exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and 12 nautical miles of territorial waters. It also provides these states with jurisdiction over marine research in both zones.

The Chinese ministry's notice, however, is silent on research activities in disputed waters such as the South China Sea. Chinese ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 conducted seismic probes within 200 miles of Vietnam’s coast in July, leading to a three-month confrontation between Chinese and Vietnamese ships. The Chinese ship quietly left the area in September.

Even the Indian Navy has stated that seven or eight Chinese ships can be found in regional waters at any time.

“Our stance has been that if you do anything in our region, you have to notify us or get our permission,” Indian naval chief Admiral Karambir Singh was quoted as saying last week.