Beware of fishing vessels in Chinese waters


Gard’s correspondent in China, Huatai Insurance Agency and Consultant Service Ltd., recently published a circular warning of an increase in fishing traffic in the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, and the waters north of 12°N of South China Sea as the start of this year’s seasonal fishing ban is approaching. Huatai Circular PNI [2021] 05 of 22 April 2021 outlines the time periods for each location and includes key points from an advisory issued by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Areas.

Worth noting is that the seasonal fishing ban takes effect on 1 May 2021 in all locations and previous experience suggests the number of fishing vessels will increase in the period leading up to this date. Likewise, an increase in fishing vessel traffic can be expected immediately after the ban ceases in each location, which will be between 16 August and 16 September depending on location.


Our correspondent advises ship operators and masters to take additional precautions when planning a voyage to and from Chinese ports during these special times and emphasises the importance of maintaining a proper lookout and staying in close contact with the nearest VTS center and pilot station.

Additional information on key characteristics of fishing areas and frequency of collisions, as well as recommendations on how avoid incidents with fishing vessels in Chinese waters, are also outlined in our alert Expected rise in the number of fishing vessels in Chinese waters – Update of 17 August 2020.

Our key recommendations are reiterated below:

  • Voyage planning: Consider the designated fishing zones during voyage planning and, where possible, mark them on navigation charts and ECDIS.
  • Bridge team composition: Increase the bridge watch keeping level in advance to ensure that the OOW has sufficient assistance at night as well as during the day. Plan other onboard activities for relevant crew members accordingly to ensure that members of the bridge team are well rested for navigation related duties.
  • Safe speed: When operating in high fishing activity areas, proceed at a safe speed with engines ready for maneuvering. The Officer of the Watch (OOW) should be empowered to adjust the speed as necessary.
  • Use of RADAR/ARPA: Make full use of radar and sound fog signal when navigating in fog, even when no fishing boats are sighted on the radar. The use of radar can be vital when navigating in these waters. General practice of long ranges scanning (12-48 nm) using the S-band radar to identify clusters of fishing fleet and using the X-band on small range (3-6 nm) for collision avoidance can be effective.
  • Keeping clear of clusters: Where the OOW is able to detect a cluster of fishing boats, try to alter course well in advance to avoid navigating through it.
  • Detecting the nets: Fishing nets may be poorly marked and difficult to detect, particularly during daytime when display lights are not easily visible. Nets with radar reflectors can be useful, but this is not a common practice and mariners have to rely on timely visual sightings of the net markers. If the vessel encounters fishing nets, stop engines immediately to prevent the propeller being fouled.
  • Communicating with fishing boats: As it might prove difficult to establish contact with fishing boats via VHF, use of whistle and day lamp may be a good way to attract their attention when required.

If a collision occurs, or is suspected to have occurred, the master and crews must render all possible assistance to the fishing vessel and contact the nearest VTS/MSA via VHF or by calling their emergency telephone number. We also stress the importance of maintaining a record of all evidence, including VDR data.