Jerry Hendrix is the director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security. A retired U.S. Navy captain, he is a former director of the Naval History and Heritage Command.
Ramming or “shouldering” ships at sea has been a common practice throughout the modern era. During the Cold War, Russian and American ships went “skin-to-skin” more than once, often denting or damaging each other as they contested territorial claims or protested close surveillance during critical exercises
A new chinese coast guard cutter will be over 500 feet long and displace more than 10,000 tons. The ship will be lightly armed, with two 76mm guns and other small arms, but these are not important to its true mission. This ship and its follow-on sister ships are built for one purpose: to move other ships out of the way.
There are a set of well-established rules of the road for ships at sea, rules that delineate who is to “give way” to the other when two vessels meet in order to avoid going bump in the night. But there is also an unwritten “law of gross tonnage” that recognizes that larger ships are less maneuverable and that smaller ships should maneuver to avoid them. Physics, it seems, has a place on the world’s oceans, and China intends to take advantage of some very hard science.
It is clear that China intends to use its monster white-hulled Coast Guard ships to respond to future US freedom of navigation operations by shouldering smaller U.S. Navy vessels.
Such operations would force the U.S. to either accede to Chinese demands or climb the ladder of escalation by forcibly defending themselves with arms, allowing China to play the victim of U.S. aggression. The United States should give some thought to modifying the design of the 60,000 ton afloat forward staging base ships being built in San Diego to allow them to serve as “blockers” for U.S. combatants upholding innocent passage missions.
China does have the largest container ships in the world
The Globe is more than 400 meters (1,312ft) long, the equivalent of eight Olympic-size swimming pools. It is 56.8m (186ft) wide and 73m (240ft) high, its gross tonnage is 186,000 - the equivalent of 14,500 London buses