China mulls sending cruise ships to West Philippine Sea

  • Chinese cruise companies have laid out plans to send cruise ships to the West Philippine Sea
  • The plan would include extending the operations overseas to countries like Vietnam and Singapore
  • It was unclear, however, whether the plan would include the Philippines as one its destinations

China will not only continue sending military vessels to the disputed waters but is now planning to send cruise ships over the course of five years, this was revealed by a state-run publication.

The announcement came less than two weeks after the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands handed its decision delegitimizing China’s historic claim to almost the entire West Philippine Sea/ South China via its self-imposed nine-dash line territorial boundary.

According to a China Daily news article, three state-owned giant cruising and tourism companies will join forces to offer the flotilla of at least eight ships which will operate cruise liner voyages to the contested territories.

These are the Sanya International Cruise Development Co Ltd (a joint venture by COSCO Shipping), China National Travel Service (HK) Group Corp and China Communications Construction Co Ltd., which will build cruising docks at Sanya’s Phoenix Island.

At the moment, Sanya’s brand new cruise ship ‘Dream of the South China Sea’ is currently operating in the area but plans are now in place to add two more ships in 2017, said Liu Junli, chairman of Sanya International Cruise.

“With a goal of becoming one of the largest cruise-home ports in Asia, Sanya’s Phoenix Island will be able to berth five cruise liners and has a tourist handling capacity of 2 million people a year,” said Liu.

While the Chinese businessman did not reveal the exact routes of the voyages, it is believed to cruise around the disputer seas; and perhaps extend its operation overseas to countries like Vietnam, Australia, Singapore and the United States.

The plan, however, is unclear whether the Philippines will be included as one of the destinations.

The Philippines took China to the arbitration court to challenge the latter’s claim of ‘absolute sovereignty’ over a group of islands in the West Philippine Sea. The court eventually sided with the Philippines after nearly two-and-a-half years of deliberations in a proceeding where China refused to participate.