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BeiDou-guided ship completes first outbound trip; system eyes promotion in global markets

March 4, 2019  - By

A Chinese cargo ship, the Rongda Changsha, equipped with receivers downloading signals from the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), arrived at Brunei, on the north coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia, in February after embarking from Luojing Port in Shanghai. This marks the first public successful application of BeiDou terminal products in the South China Sea and unveils China’s ambition to promote BeiDou products in the international marketplace.

The Shanghai-Brunei trip was a trial for not only examining BeiDou-3’s capacity, but for learning the users’ experience and needs. The data collected from the trip has been analyzed and applied for updating and prioritizing the marine navigation system, according to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), manufacturer of the Beidou receivers on the ship.

It is anticipated that more services will soon arrive, with Internet and voice calls facilitated by the messaging aspect of BDS, for further exploring industrial application scenarios and — importantly for government support of its GNSS — protecting Chinese outbound and inbound routes. The South China Sea is one of the world’s busiest waterways, and oil imports to China from the Middle East are a key strategic component of this traffic activity.

Deployment of BeiDou-3 was completed in late 2018 (see with the aim of providing navigation services for countries and regions along the Belt and Road.

BDS now covers more than 50 countries and more than 3 billion people. BDS-related products have gained access to the markets of more than 70 countries and regions, more than 30 of which are along the (land-based) Belt and (maritime) Road, in line with the Belt and Road Initiative. Through joint applications with other compatible navigation satellite systems, BDS provides global users with diversified choices for better application experience.

“Chinese security interests encompass not only China itself and nearby areas, but also the sea lanes that enable the import of raw materials and export of finished goods,” wrote Scott Pace in GPS World, December 2010. “In recent years, China has shown an increasing interest in ‘maritime domain awareness,’ in which satellite navigation is used for monitoring the transit of ships in the Indian Ocean (for example, oil from the Middle East) and the South China Sea (minerals from Australia, fishing zones). Satellite navigation is a dual-use, commercial and military, interest for China, and this may have prompted support for the more advanced, independent GNSS that would become Beidou-2 or Compass.”

Pace was chosen by the White House to serve as executive secretary of the National Space Council in July 2017. Pace is also director of the Space Policy Institute and Professor of Practice of International Affairs at George Washington University. He serves as a special counselor to the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Advisory Board.