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Web alert: Incidents between merchant vessels and aquaculture farms in vicinity of Lanshan Port, China

29 January 2014

Two recent incidents in which merchant ships were alleged to have damaged aquaculture farms in the vicinity of Lanshan port have highlighted the difficulties facing ships trading in this area.


Aquaculture


Fish farming also known as aquaculture seeks to promote the growth of marine organisms such as mussels or scallops for commercial purposes. The equipment used in this process varies but in the case of mussel farms they take the form of sub-surface ‘mussel rafts’ which rely on floating markers for buoyancy and are secured to the seabed in order to anchor their position. Mussels remain submerged throughout, suspended from the raft beneath the surface.   
The Chinese government has for some time now issued ‘sea area certificates’ to aquaculture farmers which serve to exclude all other traffic from transiting these areas as a means of protecting the fragile aquaculture equipment and operations.

 

Considerations for the mariner


Vessels should be aware that aquaculture farms in general are unlit, do not appear on radar and are hard to acquire visually, even in calm conditions. Any variation in sea state or visibility makes it unlikely that a ship would sight an aquaculture farm in time take avoiding action, especially at night.
Local authorities have responded to a rise in the number of such incidents by creating ‘defined routes’ on the approaches to Lanshan port which are safe for vessels to navigate and marked by associated buoyage. Details of these defined routes can be found on charts of the BA chart series and appropriate Pilot Books. Vessels are strongly advised to remain within these defined routes as recent incidents have occurred in the waters outside the defined routes. It should be noted that precise navigation is essential because some aquaculture farms have been cited directly adjacent to these ‘defined routes’.


Precautions to take when transiting this area

 

  1. Keep to the ‘defined routes’ at all times, passage plans should reflect this priority, charts and pilot books should be consulted during the appraisal phase
  2. Seek advice from local agents, VTS or local MSA concerning the current citing of aquaculture farms.
  3. Ensure that a proper lookout is maintained, consideration should be given to an extra lookout positioned on the fo’castle.
  4. Proceed at a speed appropriate to these confined and congested waters