Hainan’s New Maritime Regulations: An Update
Image Credit: Wikicommons

Hainan’s New Maritime Regulations: An Update


On January 1, 2013, Hainan’s new maritime security regulations entered into force.  Entitled Regulations for the Management of Coastal Border Security and Public Order in Hainan Province, they replaced those last issued in 1999.  When the new regulations were first announced in November they attracted a great deal of attention because they appeared to authorize broad powers to interfere with freedom of navigation throughout the South China Sea.  At the time, however, the full-text of the regulations had not been published, making it difficult to discern the exact impact they would have on China’s territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Now that the regulations have entered into force, the full-text has been released.  Containing fifty-two articles divided into six sections, the new regulations are an expansion and elaboration of the 1999 version, which had forty articles.  Despite the inclusion of new provisions not contained in earlier versions regarding the seizure of foreign vessels, the full-text of the 2012 regulations indicates a primary focus on the management of Chinese vessels and coastal areas.  In fact, according to the Hainan government, the regulations were revised to address increased smuggling, theft and other types of illegal activities at sea.  The complete text of the new regulations confirm my preliminary analysis; China is unlikely to significantly increase efforts to interfere with freedom of navigation, including expelling or seizing foreign vessels.

The bulk of the new regulations, roughly forty-two articles, address the activities of Chinese vessels from Hainan and the provinces coastal waters. Topics include the credentials and documents that Chinese vessels from Hainan must possess and the rules that they must follow in the province’s waters.  For example, the regulations allow public security units to establish warning areas (jingjie quyu) and special management areas (tebie guanli quyu), and to prohibit Chinese vessels from entering these zones.  The regulations also ban Chinese ships from entering the waters of foreign countries, from carrying foreign flags and from entering China’s military administrative districts (junshi guanli qu).  The regulations outline ten types of prohibited actions that would disrupt public order from transporting weapons, selling drugs, smuggling and illegal entry and exit to the use of poisons and explosives, among others.

Daj Reigh
January 8, 2013 at 01:33

Why wouldn't China enforce these rules in all its claims in the West Philippine Sea in the future? These regulations are yet another brick on the wall of China's claims. 

david teng
January 7, 2013 at 14:06

1. You sounded happy to inform the world that " China is unlikely to significantly increase effort to interfere with freedom of navigation". Does the world suppose to believe you and China after listening and watching all lawless and criminal acts done by China to date? I think the answer is " China only interfere a little with freedom of navigation now and maybe, a little more later ".
2. What does the world suppose to make of China's 9 dash claim  ( core interest ) covering 90% of South China Sea, yet according to you in 1996 China announced baselines around Paracels ( disputed ) and Hainan ( non-disputed Chinese ). Does China treat disputed and non-disputed alike? What's happened to the ( disputed ) Spratly's ? Why Spratly's differ from Paracels ?
3. Now that you have spent a lot of time to review this substantial regulations of fifty two articles, six sections with a majority of it  ( 42 articles ) devotes to Chinese vessels, why do you think China remains quiet this long instead of telling the world right away that it's replacing the 1999 laws and the new regulations do not intend to hinder international navigation? Chinese creditbility is always questionable and this case is too fishy. Don't you agree?

January 6, 2013 at 13:35

Froth at the mouth – no truth nor rationale.

January 6, 2013 at 09:48

China can do whatever it wants. International Law is nothing without enforcement. If the Philippines still fails while Burma is head of ASEAN, it should start militarizing. Perhaps consider nukes or going rogue. Its people might suffer because of sanctions and budget cuts but it's worth it. since it's a choice between independence and security, or becoming Chinese territory. Once territory is secured, we can start becoming peaceful again.

January 5, 2013 at 14:25

Mary Pham wrote:
"China is the only nation in this conflict that violates every term of the international agreements signed to date ( COC, UNCLOS…)".
That seems a rather broad and unsubstantiated statement. Care to expand and provide some supports? If you take a look at the EEZ map hosted at Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Baselines_of_Eastern_Asia_English.png), the whole Spratly Islands region is claimed by 3 countries (China, Vietnam and the Philiphines) almost in its entirety. How could China be "the ONLY nation that violates every term of…"? How about the other countries? The situation in CSC can only be described as that it is highly disputed. To point a finger at China only is disingenuous . And this new marine regulation by China is actually a response to Vietnam's announcement in July of 2012 of the law demarcating Vietnamese sea borders to include the Spratly and Paracel Islands.

January 4, 2013 at 05:23

Hmmm… Glad to know that the Philippines' claims weren't included in Hainan's baselines. Now if Beijing drops the words 'indisputable', 'inherent', and 'historical', then maybe there would be room for talks.

January 3, 2013 at 15:34

Mr Fravel seems relieved by the release of this "new" regulation: his Chinese friends are peaceful and apply international law afterall. Really?
What about this ambiguity that he himself has noted (emphasis added):
"Third, DESPITE THE REFERENCE to the islands and reefs of Sansha City, the regulations will be implemented MOSTLY in the waters around Hainan Island itself and the Paracel Islands".
So here we have a "new" regulation that applies "MOSTLY" (why not "exclusively"?) to an area of the sea that doesn't really need a "new" ragulation (by definition of "Territorial Sea" by UNCLOS) and with a reference to some open ended reference to the "new" Sansha City (for future use, when time is appropriate). Mr Fravel is fluent in Chinese. He must understand ambiguity "with Chinese characteristics", that is deliberate ambiguity.

mary pham
January 3, 2013 at 11:20

. Congrats on the right guess on Hainan's new regulations. You ended up being right after the international uproars forced China to pull back its premature challenge to freedom of navigation. My guess also, is that China will continue to test the water by selectively enforce those new laws on Filipino and Vietnamese vessels and hope no one will respond.
. " despite the reference to the islands and reefs of Sansha City, the regulations will be implemented mostly in the waters around Hainan Island itself and the Paracel Islands, not other disputed areas in the South China Sea ". Hainan island is not disputed but Paracel Islands definitely are disputed by Vietnam since the Chinese attacked and took control of them from South Vietnam in 1974.
. I'm wondering if the world should have much faith in Chinese regulations as you appear to have since China is the only nation in this conflict that violates every term of the international agreements signed to date ( COC, UNCLOS…)

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