The government must step up efforts to carry out maritime bathymetry surveys to step up Taiwan’s “data over sovereign territory,” Institute of National Defense and Security Research fellow Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲) said on Friday.
Su made the comments following a National Audit Office report that said Chinese military exercises near Taiwanese waters since US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei early last month have severely affected the government’s efforts to carry out maritime bathymetry surveys.
The Ministry of the Interior’s bathymetry surveys, which began in 2004, only cover 27.67 percent of Taiwan’s territorial waters, which span 53,251km2, the report said.
If the maritime area near Taiwan’s territorial waters is included, that total area is 80,000km2, shrinking the coverage of the surveys — which primarily record depth and geography — to about 18.24 percent, it said.
As of April 15, more than 70 percent of completed bathymetry surveys were of questionable quality, with 60 percent of the data at least 10 years old, which could affect the accuracy of digital maps, it said.
The state of the data is a concern for maritime safety and might affect national security, the report said.
Ocean floor geomorphology is closely linked to minelaying, Su said, adding that depth, hydrological regime and currents affect anti-submarine warfare.
“Bathymetry surveys are inseparable from national defense,” Su said.
If the government could cite accurate and up-to-date data on submarine geomorphology within its territorial waters, it would help it contend with foreign claims in contested waters, he said.
Lu Li-shih (呂禮詩), a former navy lieutenant commander, said that a government-conducted general bathymetry survey is plausible.
However, the government should focus its efforts on critical areas based on military requirements, Lu said.
Ministry of National Defense exercises, including the Han Kuang exercises near Jialutang Beach (加祿堂) in Pingtung County’s Fangshan Township (枋山), would benefit from local bathymetry surveys, he said.
The surveys would have allowed the military to determine the most likely landing areas of an invading force and lay mines or tetrapod obstacles to increase the difficulty of such an operation, he said.
The Ministry of the Interior said that it has promulgated the Regulations on Water Depth Measuring (水深測量作業規範) and the Depth Standards and Systems (深度基準及深度系統), and is working closely with the Ocean Affairs Council and other agencies to determine how annual bathymetry surveys should be conducted.
Moreover, it has signed collaboration accords or memorandums of understanding to facilitate data sharing, it said.
The interior ministry is applying for project funding with the National Development Council, hoping to prioritize sea areas with no data to conduct bathymetry surveys, it said.
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