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USNS Impeccable

Posted by Data Locker - A Pot of Information on March 10, 2009

Historically, on March 8, 2009, the ship was declared to be “harassed” 75 miles south of Hainan, China, while doing some surveys in international waters off the South China Sea. The unarmed Impeccable was shadowed by five Chinese ships, including a Bureau of Maritime Fisheries Patrol Vessel, a State Oceanographic Administration patrol vessel, a Chinese Navy intelligence collection ship, and two small Chinese flagged trawlers, which aggressively managed dangerously close to the ship, with two nearing in to 50 feet, waving Chinese flags, and ordering the Impeccable from the area.

What the civilian crew did way spray water at one of the nearest Chinese ships, but unfortunately, the Chinese sailors, despite the force of the water, stripped down to their underwear, and the vessel closed to within 25 feet of the American ocean surveillance ship. Not very long after the incident, the Impeccable radioed the Chinese crews, informing them of their intentions to leave the area, and requesting a safe pass to travel. When trying to leave the area, however, two of the Chinese ships stopped directly in front of the fleeing ship, forcing them to do an emergency stop to avoid a collision.

This incident was the latest in a string of conflicts involving the Impeccable and Chinese vessels. On Thursday, March 5, 2009, a Chinese frigate approached Impeccable and crossed its bow at a range of approximately 100 yards. This was followed less than two hours later by a Chinese Y-12 aircraft conducting 11 fly-bys of Impeccable at an altitude of 600 feet and a range from 100-300 feet. The frigate then crossed Impeccable’s bow again, this time at a range of approximately 400-500 yards without rendering courtesy or notice of her intentions.

On Saturday, March 7, a Chinese intelligence collection ship challenged Impeccable over bridge-to-bridge radio, calling her operations illegal and directing Impeccable to leave the area or “suffer the consequences.”

The United States has lodged formal protests. Under international law, the U.S. military can conduct activities “in waters beyond the territorial sea of another state without prior notification or consent” including in an exclusive economic zone of another country, said a Pentagon spokesman. “The unprofessional maneuvers by Chinese vessels violated the requirement under international law to operate with due regard for the rights and safety of other lawful users of the ocean.


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