Surface Forces: Chinese Warships Achieve Another First


October 30, 2013: In September, for the first time in history, Chinese warships passed through the Straits of Magellan (at the southern tip of South America). This has long been the only safe waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific for surface ships. The straits are a narrow coastal path weaving its way through offshore islands. South of that is the open sea and Drake’s Passage, which is an extremely violent patch of water that ships have learned to avoid.

The only other natural route between the Atlantic and Pacific is the Northwest Passage (off the north coast of Canada). But this is blocked by ice most of the time, while the Straits of Magellan are open all the time. That said, these straits have some of the harshest weather on the planet. The straits are close to the Chilean coast and Chile provides pilots (which are mandatory for the 2,000 or so ships taking this route each year) to safely guide ships through. The Chinese task force, on its way to visit Argentina, consisted of a destroyer, frigate, and a supply ship. Most (nearly 90 percent) of ships passing between the Atlantic and Pacific use the Panama Canal.

Earlier in the year (July) 5 Chinese naval vessels (two destroyers, two frigates, and one supply ship) achieved another first by circumnavigating Japan. This was the first time Chinese warships had done this. It happened as the ships were returning from joint naval exercises in Russia. Instead of returning directly to their bases, the Chinese task force plotted a course that took them completely around Japan, the first time Chinese warships have done that. The Japanese were not amused.



Article Archive

Surface Forces : Current 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2000 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close