Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Resources Ahmed Shiyam has said that he does not believe the Chinese research vessel, Xiang Yang Hong 03, which is now on its way to China after three months spent in the oceans surrounding the Maldives’, including two berths at Malé, carried out any activities which relate specifically to the Maldives.

Speaking with local media outlet Adhadhu, Shiyam said he had not received any information that the vessel was conducting a marine survey of the Maldives.

“We don’t know if the research vessel is doing anything related to us and I don’t believe it is doing anything like that,” he said.

If any such activities were conducted, it will be in collaboration with the Maldivian government, Shiyam said, adding that he would share more information after seeking further clarification.

China’s most advanced research vessel began its journey to the Maldives on 14 January 2024, 24 hours after President Mohamed Muizzu concluded his official visit to China.

The vessel arrived on29 January and first docked at Malé on 22 February. On 25 April the vessel returned to the Maldives’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Using satellite Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracking, the Chinese vessel is now confirmed to be in the Java Sea near Indonesia, on its way back to China.

The tracking information for the vessel’s movements show that it had cruised within the country’s EEZ on several occasions over the past three months, having entered the Maldives’ waters several miles southwest of Addu Atoll.

The Maldives’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) initially confirmed the arrival of the vessel following media reports. A statement issued at the time said the Chinese vessel was entering the Maldives for a crew replacement and restocking. It is believed to have docked at Thilafushi twice for this purpose.