Taiwan's new harbour on Taiping taking shape
Jane's Defence Weekly, 2015-Nov-13
Author: James Hardy, London; Sean O'Connor, Indiana, United States
Taiwan is making steady progress with constructing a new harbour on Taiping (Itu Aba) island in the South China Sea and looks set to finish the facility by the end of the year.
Details from Airbus Defence and Space imagery taken in April and August 2014 show the progress of construction of the wharf on Taiping Island in the South China Sea. (CNES 2014/Distribution Airbus DS/Spot Image S.A./IHS 2014)
Harbour expansion on Taiping in the South China Sea in October 2015. (CNES 2015/DISTRIBUTION AIRBUS DS/IHS)
Satellite imagery taken on 8 June and 5 October 2015 by Airbus Defence and Space shows that the outer sea wall of the harbour has been completed on two sides and that slipways are also close to being finished.
Taiping Island is the largest naturally formed landmass in the disputed Spratly Islands. It is occupied by Taiwan and administered by the country's Coast Guard Administration (CGA).
The CGA began a feasibility study to build a wharf capable of handling 2,000-ton frigates in 2013. It completed construction of a 1,200 m runway in 2008.
Infrastructure construction on Taiping in the South China Sea in October 2015. (CNES 2015/DISTRIBUTION AIRBUS DS/IHS)
The current state of harbour expansion on Taiping Island. (CNES 2015/DISTRIBUTION AIRBUS DS/IHS)
The 5 October imagery shows dredging under way to create the final eastern side of the harbour; it also shows that Taiwan is using an excavator on a barge to dredge sediment and then drop it onto another barge.
The use of excavators rather than suction dredgers may explain the relatively slow pace of work at the site. By contrast, China's island building programme in the Spratly Islands has made extensive use of suction dredgers to quickly create new landmasses.
The newly completed structure and evidence of ramp area expansion near the northeasterm end of Taiping Island's airfield. (CNES 2015/DISTRIBUTION AIRBUS DS/IHS)
The new terrain-clearing operation under way on Taiping Island. (CNES 2015/DISTRIBUTION AIRBUS DS/IHS)
Other notable changes since the 8 June imagery include an expansion of the concrete apron next to the airstrip on the island's northeastern side and the clearing of scrubland on the northwestern side.
Taiwanese media has also reported that a lighthouse on the island has been completed and will be operational by the end of 2015, although this is not visible in either the June or October images.COMMENT
Taiping is the only island occupied by Taiwan in the Spratlys, although it continues to claim the rest of the archipelago. It has become something of a political football in the ongoing presidential election campaign in recent weeks, with KMT candidate Eric Chu suggesting in early November that it could be into a tourist attraction to solidify Taiwan's claim.
Chu's proposals, to launch regular flights and build some "basic facilities" on the island, received a cautious response from Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General David Lo, who told reporters that national security considerations meant tourism on Taiping "would require more careful assessment".