Yongxing Island is home to the government of Sansha, China's southernmost city. (Photo/Xinhua)
China has been contributing to the freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea, researchers conclude in a new report.
According to the 2017 Report on Navigation in the South China Sea, China's regular patrols and administration of the sea have safeguarded civilian ships' passage through the region.
In March last year, 7,909 vessels and in the following June, 7,502 vessels sailed through the South China Sea, roughly the same numbers as in the previous year. These vessels, most of which weighed more than 30,000 metric tons, navigated safely through the sea, according to the report.
Xiao Yingjie, president of Shanghai Maritime University's Merchant Marine College, who led the research, said the report, based on comprehensive and objective research and analysis, fills a void of statistics and analysis about maritime transport safety in the South China Sea.
The South China Sea, one of the busiest waters in the world, is widely navigated by ships registered in nearly 70 countries and regions and is crucial to the global shipping industry, the report says.
China takes its obligations and responsibilities in the sea seriously and safeguards ships plying those waters. Based on international laws and norms, China is willing to join hands with other countries in the region to make the sea a symbol of peace, friendship and cooperation, according to the report.
Research shows that ships can freely choose waterways in the South China Sea and their voyages are smooth and safe. It also indicates that China's security measures in the region are essential and reliable.
The report suggests that China should continue to improve the construction and maintenance of public service facilities in the South China Sea, such as lighthouses and automatic identification systems for ships, so it can better support navigation in the region.
Xiao said it is fair to call China the biggest contributor to the freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea as well as to civilian fleets' thriving operations there.
He said the country has built many public service facilities in the region, such as the five large lighthouses on the Nansha Islands, China's southernmost archipelago in the South China Sea, and these facilities have greatly supported maritime search and rescue, navigational safety, fishing operations and disaster relief.
"Those lighthouses are the biggest of their kind in the waters of the Nansha Islands and have brought a great deal of convenience and assistance to ships," he said.
"In addition, China has also been the most helpful party when it comes to search missions and saving lives on the sea," Xiao said, citing figures in the report that China undertook 25 search-and-rescue missions in 2016 and 2017 and through these saved the lives of 138 people.