China Coast Guard’s “Monster” Vessel Patrolled Vietnam’s EEZ

Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin completed his undergraduate and graduate education at a Texas university and has studied extensively in China. As a former Marine Corps intelligence analyst, he worked in the Indo-Pacific region. His areas of expertise include PLA modernization, particularly PLAN/PLANMC and its expeditionary capabilities, as well as CCP and Chinese domestic politics. He also runs the Sino Talk brand on Instagram and Twitter and is the IndoPacific Desk Chief for Atlas.

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Vanguard Bank Patrol

On February 21st, the China Coast Guard’s (CCG) Zhaotou-class Patrol Cutter, the Haijing-5901, reentered Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to conduct patrols near Vanguard Bank. Specifically, the vessel patrolled oil and natural gas fields that are located near the bank.

CCG Vessel 5901 track during its patrol near Vanguard Bank (Photo: X, formally Twitter/@GordianKnotRay)

A vessel from the Vietnam Fisheries Surveillance, Kiem Ngu 261, shadowed the Haijing-3901 as it sailed through the area. The Haijing-5901 sailed out of the area after sailing around the area for a few hours.

The patrol cutter conducted the same area in the country’s EEZ from early December 2023 to early January 2024 before returning to port in Hainan. CCG 5402 replaced the vessel on January 10th and also continued to conduct patrols in Vietnam’s as well as Indonesia’s and Malaysia’s EEZ until early February.

Zhaotou-Class Patrol Cutter

Shanghai-based Jiangnan Shipyard designed and built the Zhao-class Patrol Cutters, which are considered large patrol vessels. The vessels are also nicknamed “Monsters” due to the vessels being the biggest coast guard cutters in the world. China built the vessels as part of its CCG modernization and to enforce its claims in both the East China and South China Seas.

The Zhaotou is approximately 541 feet long (165 meters), has a beam of about 66 feet (20 meters), and has a full displacement of 12,000 tons (10,886 metric tons). The vessels have a total displacement of 33 percent heavier than the United States’ Ticonderoga-class Guided Missile Cruisers or Arleigh Burke-class Guided Missile Destroyers. Furthermore, the Zhaotou-class also has a total displacement approximately 33 percent heavier than the Japanese Coast Guard’s Shikishima-class large patrol vessels.

Shikishima-class patrol vessel PLH 31 Shikishima

The vessel is armed with a H/PJ-26 76mm naval gun, two 30mm autocannons in the auxiliary gun role, and two anti-aircraft heavy machineguns. The vessels have a range of between 10,000 and 15,000 nautical miles (18520 and 27780 km) and a top speed of 25 knots (46 kph). The vessels have a large hanger to accommodate two Z-8 or Z-9 medium-utility helicopters or Unmanned Vehicles and a large helipad to launch and recover them.