Chinese legislature mulls seabed exploration law

Beijing, Oct 31 (IANS) China’s top legislature deliberated on the country’s first law on deep seabed exploration in an effort to protect the maritime environment and boost sustainable exploitation of deep sea resources.

“China should complete its legislation on deep seabed exploration as soon as possible, so as to fulfill its international obligations and protect the interests of the country as well as mankind,” said lawmaker Lu Hao when speaking at the start of the bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the 12th National People’s Congress on Friday.

Lu said the law can help regulate deep seabed exploration and exploitation and improve deep sea technologies, reporte.

The meeting will last until November 4.

China is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that international seabeds and their resources are the commonly inherited property of mankind.

According to the draft law, potential deep seabed prospectors must submit their plans to the Chinese maritime watchdog, including materials reflecting possible impact on the marine environment. Only after the Chinese regulator approves the plan can they apply to the International Seabed Authority and sign a seabed exploration contract.

Those who proceed with their exploration without obtaining approval will be fined of up to one million yuan ($158,300) if they cause marine environmental damage. Serious violators will be held criminally responsible.

China has independently developed its maritime scientific expedition ship Kexue, which is equipped with unmanned, tether-attached submersibles, deep-towed exploration instruments and deep sea grabs with live camera feeds.

Its deep sea manned submersible, Jiaolong, concluded a 120-day expedition in the southwest Indian Ocean in March, collecting data and samples for hydrothermal fluids and conducting deep sea biodiversity research. Jiaolong reached its record depth of 7,062 meters in 2012.

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