East Sea file: Physical features - Part 2

VietNamNet Bridge – There is growing concern about increased tension in the East Sea after China illegally placed its drilling rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone in the sea.

Vietnam’s waters and continental shelves in the East Sea

Vietnam’s sea areas, continental shelf and islands in the East Sea cover many different areas, but most typical with noteworthy characteristics are the Gulf of Tonkin, the Gulf of Thailand, the two archipelagoes of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa and a number of other isles and islands.

East Sea, Hoang Sa, Truong Sa, Gulf of Tonkin

Bac Bo Gulf (i.e. the Gulf of Tonkin)

The Gulf of Tonkin is located in the Northwest of The East Sea, it is surrounded by the coast and islands of North Vietnam in the west, by mainland China in the north, and by Leizhou Peninsula and Hainan Island in the East.

It extends from latitude 105°36’ east to longitude 109°55’ east, and from latitude 21°55’ north to latitude 17°10’ north. The area is about 126,250 km2, the width at the widest place is about 310 km and 220 km at the narrowest.

 The Gulf is quite shallow, with the average depth of between 40-50m, and about 100m at the deepest. The seabed is relatively flat with a small gradient. The continental shelf of the natural seaward prolongation of Vietnam continent is quite large, the slope is moderate and there is a deep trough of over 70m near Hainan Island of China.

Its coastline is winding and there are many islands near the coast. In the Gulf, close to the Vietnam side, there are about 3,000 islands, large and small, Bach Long Vi island area is 2.5km2, 100km away from inland Vietnam, 130km away from Hainan Island of China. There are many marine resources (the Vietnamese fish stock here reaches about 440,000 tonnes) and oil and gas reserves.

 The Gulf of Tonkin has two gateways to the outside: the South gateway to the East Sea centre where the narrowest place is about 240 km, the East gateway through Quynh Chau strait, (located between Leizhou Peninsula and Hainan Island) to the North of the East Sea where the narrowest place is about 18 km.

The Gulf of Thailand

 The Gulf of Thailand is located in the southwest of the East Sea, and is bound by the coast of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia. It covers an area of about 293,000 km2, the perimeter is about 2,300 km, and the length of the bay is about 628 km. This is a shallow bay, the deepest place in which is only about 80m. Phu Quoc Island is the largest of Vietnam here with an area of 567 km2.

 The Gulf of Thailand has a lot of marine resources (the fish stock of Vietnam here is approximately 510,000 tonnes) and there is large oil and gas potential of which several relevant countries are conducting exploration and exploitation.

The Islands and Archipelagos

 The coastal areas of Vietnam has about 2,773 islands, large and small, mainly located in Gulf of Tonkin, the remaining islands located in:

        + The North Central region

       + The East Sea Central area has two archipelagos: Hoang Sa and Truong Sa.

       + The Central, South Central sea areas.

       + The Southwest sea area.

 Based on strategic location and geography, economies, and population conditions, the islands and archipelagos can be grouped as follows:

The outpost island system plays an important role in national national construction and defense. Thanks to the islands, it is possible to establish the waters and airspace of the country, check the operations of ships, ensure national security, economic development, sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the country. Those are the inlands and archipelagos of Hoang Sa, Truong Sa, Chang Tay, Tho Chu, Phu Quoc, Con Dao, Phu Quy, Ly Son, Con Co, Co To, Bach Long Vi, etc.

The large islands have natural conditions favourable for socio-economic development, such as Co To, Cat Ba, Cu Lao Cham, Ly Son, Phu Quy, Con Dao, and Phu Quoc.

The islands near the sea shores and mainland offer resources for the development of fisheries and tourism, and also provide protection for order and security on our country’s sea area and seashores. They are the islands of Cat Ba island district, Bach Long Vi island district (Haiphong), Phu Quy island district (Binh Thuan), Con Dao island district (Ba Ria-Vung Tau), Ly Son island district (Quang Ngai), Phu Quoc island district (Kien Giang), etc.

Hoang Sa and Truong Sa Archipelagos

Hoang Sa Archipelago is a coral archipelago, distributed from about meridian 111° to 113° East to latitude 15°45’ North to 17°15’ North, cross-level with Hue and Danang, out at the gateway to the Gulf of Tonkin, in the Northern area of the East Sea, on the international marine route from Europe to the countries in the East and Northeast Asian countries.

Hoang Sa Archipelago comprises over 37 islands, rocks and sandy bars covering an area of about 30,000 km2. It is divided into two groups: the East group is named An Vinh group, with about 12 islands in which there are two large islands of Phu Lam and Linh Con, each island is about 1.5km2 wide.

The West group includes many islands arranged in an arc, hence they are named Luoi Liem group, in which there is Hoang Sa island (with an area of nearly 1km2), Quang Anh, Huu Nhat, Quang Hoa, Duy Mong, Chim Yen, Tri Ton…

The two Hoang Sa and Truong Sa Archipelagos assume a very important position for Vietnam. First of all, they are situated in the middle of the East Sea, where the most important shipping routes of the world pass by.

Besides, thanks to their location when stretching along the Vietnamese coastline, Hoang Sa and Truong Sa assume frontal positions of protection for the east side of the country, as well as the seas, and coasts of Vietnam. Economically, the two archipelagos contain many rich and diverse biological resources and minerals, especially oil and gas.

(To be continued…)


East Sea, Hoang Sa, Truong Sa, Gulf of Tonkin