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Nation shores up maritime rescue system

Category:[world] [CHINA] [Top News]

Bigger, faster, stronger: That is the plan for the updated offshore rescue system unveiled by China Rescue and Salvage Bureau yesterday.

Operational by 2010, the new system will mean rescue vessels will be able to reach any spot within 50 nautical miles (92.6 kilometres) of the coast in two and a half hours, cutting reaction time by an hour from present.

Helicopters will be able to search for and rescue targets at night, expanding the offshore search radius from 110 to 260 nautical miles (204 to 482 kilometres).

Also, rescuers will be able to salvage ships weighing 50,000 tons.

The bureau revealed the measures, to be taken in its 11th Five Year plan (2006-10), at a press conference yesterday in Beijing to mark the 55th anniversary of its establishment.

According to the plan, new rescue vessels will be purchased to build a fleet of 56 rescue tugboats with different sizes and functions.

"The fleet should be able to set off and carry out effective rescue work in heavy seas," said Song Jiahui, head of the bureau.

In 1999, the nation was shocked by the death of 282 people aboard the ship Dashun, which capsized in the Bohai Sea in strong winds.

"Our rescue ships were there by the side of Dashun, but were unable to help the ship and passengers because of our poor equipment and rescue level," said Song.

"Seeing so many lives lost has driven us to carry out a reform of the rescue and salvage system," he said.

Started in 2004, the reform has so far seen good results. In May, the country's rescue workers saved more than 330 Vietnamese fishermen from the fury of Typhoon Chanchu.

The bureau dispatched four rescue vessels and one helicopter for the 17-day mission. They searched through an area of more than 200,000 square kilometres, and found 22 Vietnamese fishing boats.

Currently the bureau has 180 vessels and nine helicopters. More than 8,000 people are employed in 20 rescue bases along the coast.

In the past three years, the bureau has saved more than 9,000 people, including 1,362 foreigners.

It has helped at least 458 ships, including 85 foreign ships, out of danger.

Furthermore, the bureau has salvaged the wreckage of 33 sunken boats, including five foreign boats.

(China Daily 08/25/2006 page2)

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