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BEIJING, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) — China’s top legislature on Friday deliberated on the country’s first law on deep seabed exploration, in an effort to protect the maritime environment and boost sustainable exploitation of deep sea resources.

“China should complete its legislation on deep seabed exploration as soon as possible, so as to fulfill its international obligations and protect the interests of the country as well as mankind,” said lawmaker Lu Hao when speaking at the start of the bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the 12th National People’s Congress.

Lu said the law can help regulate deep seabed exploration and exploitation and improve deep sea technologies.

The meeting will last from Friday to Wednesday.

China is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that international seabeds and their resources are the commonly inherited property of mankind.

According to the draft law, potential deep seabed prospectors must submit their plans to the Chinese maritime watchdog, including materials reflecting possible impact on the marine environment. Only after the Chinese regulator approves the plan can they apply to the International Seabed Authority and sign a seabed exploration contract.

Those who proceed with their exploration without obtaining approval will be fined of up to one million yuan (158,300 U.S. dollars) if they cause marine environmental damage. Serious violators will be held criminally responsible.

Deep sea project contractors must have an emergency response mechanism and report immediately to authorities when encountering emergencies, and they should take every feasible measure that they can take to reduce harm to staff and the ocean environment, it said.

The draft reads that, to improve deep sea exploration technology, the government will provide ships, equipment and other professional services for deep sea technology research and deep sea surveys.

China has independently developed its maritime scientific expedition ship Kexue, which is equipped with unmanned, tether-attached submersibles, deep-towed exploration instruments and deep sea grabs with live camera feeds.

Its deep sea manned submersible, Jiaolong, concluded a 120-day expedition in the southwest Indian Ocean in March, collecting data and samples for hydrothermal fluids and conducting deep sea biodiversity research. Jiaolong reached its record depth of 7,062 meters in 2012.

The government will also support activities like seminars held by social organizations and individuals to popularize deep sea science.

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