Factbox-Chinese research vessels operating in the Indian Ocean

By Thomson Reuters Feb 22, 2024 | 1:33 AM

(Reuters) – China’s scientific survey fleet of ships is growing and although the government insists the vessels are for research purposes only, some Asian neighbours, especially India, are concerned sensitive data they gather might be shared with the Chinese military.

A research vessel – Xiang Yang Hong 03 – arrived at the Maldives on Thursday. It is the latest Chinese civilian survey ship that India has called a “spy ship”.

China is expanding in both number and size its so-called China Marine Research Vessels, a national survey fleet established in 2012, as President Xi Jinping calls for the building of a “strong maritime country”.

Below is an overview of Chinese vessels that frequent the Indian Ocean.


TYPE nautic



Xiang Ocean-g 15,000 First Started in Oct 2016:

Yang Hong oing Institute of two months of

01 researc Oceanography, integrated water

h Ministry of survey of the

vessel Natural southern part of East

Resources Indian Ocean

Started in Aug 2017:

263 days of global


environment and

climate survey in

areas including the

Indian Ocean.

Ended on Feb. 19,

2021: 67 days of

geological and

geophysical profiling

in the East Indian


Started on Feb. 12,

2022: 74 days of

survey of marine

substrates and

benthic organisms in

the West Indian Ocean

Xiang Ocean-g 15,000 Third From May to July

Yang Hong oing Institute of 2022: conducted

03 researc Oceanography, survey in the East

h Ministry of Indian Ocean.

vessel Natural


From Jan to May 2024:

conducted deep-water

survey in the south

Indian Ocean.

Xiang Ocean-g 8,000 First Started in Nov 2017:

Yang Hong oing Institute of 75-80 days of

18 researc Oceanography, integrated water

h Ministry of survey of the

vessel Natural southern part of East

Resources Indian Ocean

Xiang Coast-g 10,000 East China In Dec 2019:

Yang Hong uard Sea Bureau, conducted survey in

19 vessel Ministry of the East Indian Ocean

convert Natural

ed Resources



Xiang Ocean-g 15,000 The North Sea In Nov 2014: carried

Yang Hong oing Bureau of the Jiaolong and

09 researc Ministry of conducted survey in

h Natural Southwest Indian

vessel Resources Ocean’s polymetallic

and sulphide mining area




boat of





Xiang Marine Second Started in Jan 2016:

Yang Hong Researc Institute of 18 days of ocean

10 h Oceanography, scientific survey in

Vessel Ministry of Southwest Indian

Natural Ocean


Started on Dec. 6,

2017: 250 days of

global survey

including survey in

Indian Ocean

Xiang Marine 15,000 The North Sea From Feb. to March

Yang Hong Researc Bureau of the 2020: conducted joint

06 h Ministry of marine scientific

Vessel Natural research with Myanmar

Resources in the East Indian

Ocean and 12

underwater gliders

carried out

observation which put

India on alert.

Dong Fang 13,000 Ocean On Nov. 14, 2017:

Hong 2 University of crossed the Strait of

China Malacca into the

Indian Ocean and

stopped at Sri Lanka


Shi Yan 1 Marine 8,000 Institute of In Sept 2019:

scienti Oceanology, expelled by Indian

fic Chinese warship for operating

researc Academy of near the Port Blair

h Sciences region of India.


Started in April

2010: 48 days of


geological and

biological survey in

areas including the

Indian Ocean

Shi Yan 3 Marine 8,000 South China From April to June

scienti Sea Institute 2021: conducted

fic of marine sediment

researc Oceanology, collection,

h Chinese biochemistry surveys

vessel Academy of in East Indian Ocean.


Shi Yan 6 Ocean-g 12,000 South China Started in March

oing Sea Institute 2022: 85 days of

researc of scientific survey in

h Oceanology, the East Indian

vessel Chinese Ocean.

Academy of


Started in Sept 2023:

80 days of scientific

survey in the Indian

Ocean and stopped at

Sri Lanka port

Colombo, which caused

India’s objections.

Lan Hai Fisheri 10,000 Yellow Sea Started in Nov 2023:

101 es Fisheries 120 days of fishery

science Research research in middle

researc Institute, and west Indian

h Chinese Ocean.

Academy of



Lan Hai Fisheri 10,000 East China In Nov 2023:

201 es Sea Fisheries conducted fisheries

science Research resources survey in

researc Institute, the northwestern

h Chinese Indian Ocean

Academy of



Da Yang Ocean-g 15,000 National Deep In Nov 2014:

Yi Hao oing Sea Center conducted exploration

scienti for polymetallic

fic sulphides in

researc thesouthwest Indian

h Ocean


Hai Yang Geologi 8,000 Guangzhou In Nov 2018:

Di Zhi cal Marine conducted marine

Shi Hao survey Geological geoscientific

ship Survey, expeditions in Indian

Ministry of Ocean

Land and


In April 2018:

conducted tracking

mission in the Indian

Ocean for two

satellite launching.

Dec 2022:

entered Indian Ocean


In Nov 2022: the

Indian Navy stopped

the vessel from

entering its EEZ and

called it a spy ship.

Hai Yang Geophys China In April 2023:

Shi You ical Oilfield crossed the Malacca

760 explora Services Strait after

tion Limited conducting ocean bed

ship mapping in the Indian


Sources: Xinhua, CCTV, Global Times, China National Radio, China News Service, Science and Technology Daily, official websites of vessel owners, SCMP, The Times of India, Hindustan Times.

(Reporting by Albee Zhang and Ryan Woo: Editing by Neil Fullick)