China’s fame in shipbuilding industry turns to ashes

Colombo: Years of China’s fame in the shipbuilding industry due to its pace in production turned to ashes when on April 11 the PLA Navy’s latest Type 075 landing helicopter dock (LHD) amphibious ship caught fire.

According to a report in Ceylon Today, on the morning of April 11, 2020, the PLA Navy’s LHD caught fire, as smoke was observed coming out of rear hangar opening and lift near island superstructure. Within 10 days of the incident, the ship was painted and readied for the launch ceremony of PLA Navy’s second Type 075 on April 22.

The incident brought forth several questions on the quality of material and workmanship in Chinese shipyards and their adherence to industry safety norms and international standards, Ceylon Today reported.

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The examples of Chinese-built ships developing malfunctions are numerous.

China’s ‘all-weather ironclad friend’ Pakistan was one among several countries who had to bear the brunt of Beijing’s lack of attention in quality while producing ships.

According to Ceylon Today, the refurbished Chinese built F22P frigates have been beset with various technical malfunctions. In September 2018, the Pakistan Navy had requested China for a comprehensive proposal to undertake the Mid-Life Upgrade/overhaul of these ships. However, China seeing no profit turned a blind eye, thus forcing Pakistan Navy to turn to Turkey.

In the case of China’s gift of PLA Navy warship to the Sri Lankan Navy (SLN), the warship was stripped of its main armament — missile and CIWS systems before handing it over to Sri Lanka, which commissioned it as an offshore patrol vessel (OPV) SLNS Parakramabahu.

SLNS Parakramabahu sailed on its maiden voyage from Shanghai on June 25, 2019, but reportedly had major operational defects, requiring it to pull into port en route and undertake substantial emergency repairs, Ceylon Today reported.

Similarly in the case of Bangladesh, two used Type 035G Ming Class submarines (recommissioned as BNS Nobojatra and BNS Joyjatra) were offered at just over USD 100 million a piece by China. Ceylon Today reported that in April 2003, PLA Navy Ming Class submarine 361 suffered a mechanical failure in the Yellow Sea killing all its 70 crew members.

Ceylon Today reported that the major defects, across various classes of ships built by the Chinese, include rapid corrosion of the underwater hull and propellers, welding defects and excessive vibrations of main engines. Ships’ operating speeds have also reportedly shown a reduction of up to 5 knots within a few years of commissioning.

Ceylon Today reported that the recently acquired two Chinese 053H3 Frigates (BNS Umar Farooq and BNS Abu Ubaidah) arrived at Mongla Port Bangladesh in 2020, after experiencing multiple defects en route. During the trials, the performance of the H/LRM1290A Navigation Radar was reportedly found unsatisfactory and was not accepting GPS and AIS feeds.

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