China has purchased 200 dredging ships over the last 11 years. Most of the technology was from Germany, Japan and other countries.
China tripled its dredging capacity over the last 15 years. China can now build its own large and modern dredging ships.
China has stated that a US ship passing within a dozen miles of one of its islands is provocation for more island building and fortification in the South China Sea. Clearly, China was always intending to build up more islands.
China has built a 140-meter-long, 28-meter-wide dregger, the Tian Kun Hao, which has described by some local media as “Asia’s most powerful island maker”. It is expected to go into service in the summer of 2018.
The Tian Kun Hao has a deck the size of nine basketball courts, it is capable of dredging up to 6,000 cubic meters an hour and can dig as deep as 35 meters under the sea floor. It also has an advanced global positioning system and thanks to an automatic control system can be operated without any crew. The previous largest Chinese dregger could dig 4500 cubic meters per hour. Tian Kun can blast through seabed rocks, suck up sand, and pump material through a pipeline over a distance of up to 15km, allowing it to dredge in one spot and refill in another without requiring landfill material to be transported from elsewhere. That gives it the unique edge to reclaim land at a faster speed and greater efficiency than conventional operations.
The US expects China to build up in the Paracel Island area. This will weaken Vietnam’s claims. China has a deal with the Philippines so China will not build more islands in the Spratley’s to keep relations with the Philippines.
Nextbigfuture makes the obvious observation that China will modernize its dregger fleet and triple dredging capacity again over the next 15 years. China will spend $2 to 4 billion per year on better ships and on operations to build islands.
The Paracel Islands are a chain of some 130 tiny features. China will likely building up dozens into islands with airports, missile facilities and ports.