China will limit exports of large dredgers used for reclamation work starting Thursday, a move which analysts said shows China's heightened national security awareness and is in line with international practices.
The State Council must approve exports of five models of large dredgers starting Thursday, the Ministry of Commerce said in a notice last week, adding the move aims to protect the country's national security.
Dredgers with a large carrying capacity and installed power and can dig more than 15 meters deep are covered under the export restrictions, the notice said.
Exporters of these types of dredgers must register with the ministry and apply for approval if they intend to export the equipment, it said.
Dredgers are widely used for building and expanding artificial islands, ports and other marine construction.
"Dredgers can be used for building civil facilities, such as artificial islands and ports, but could also used to build military facilities. China recognizes the potential risks of foreign countries using such equipment to build military facilities, and targeted export restrictions can help reduce the risk," Liu Feng, an expert on Chinese maritime issues told the Global Times on Wednesday.
"China is not the first country to impose such export restrictions. Other countries, especially the US and those in Europe, restrict the export of high-end equipment and technologies. China's export restrictions are in line with international practices and norms, and should be no cause for criticism," Liu said.
China has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea, which China sees as defending its historical territory.
"The latest restrictions highlight China's growing security awareness. With advanced dredging technology and rich experience in dredging work, China should give more consideration to security issues," Bai Ming, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times.
"Apart from security concerns, China will also consider the impact of large dredgers used by foreign buyers on altering the flow of rivers and the geographical environment. So it should regulate exports to prevent environmental risks," Bai said.
The notice said the ministry will decide within 45 working days whether to approve exports of the restricted models after exporters submit the required documents, including the applicants' ID certificates, contracts and the dredgers' technical specifications.
"The restrictions are mainly applied to large dredgers for special purposes. The impact on civil dredger exporters will be limited," Bai said.
Chen Chao, a technician with Shandong-based Qingzhou Marine Engineering & Environmental Protection Equipment Co which exports dredgers, told the Global Times that the company remains unaffected as the dredgers they produce are small and the restrictions may have a bigger impact on companies in coastal areas.