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16 July 2014 • 10:00 GMT+7 — China removed its oil rig, Haiyang Shiyou 981, from Vietnamese waters early Wednesday after illegally placing it there for 75 days since May 1, despite strong protests from Vietnam, Tuoi Tre(Youth) newspaper correspondents reported from the scene.
All the Chinese vessels that had protected the rig in the Vietnamese waters since May 1 also left the area, Ha Le, deputy head of the Vietnamese Fisheries Resources Surveillance Department, said.
They are escorting the drilling platform to Hainan Island, Le added.
At 11:17 pm Tuesday, China’s Xinhua News Agency cited a source from the China Oilfield Services Limited (COSL), the rig’s operator and supervisor, as saying that the drilling platform had stopped operations in the Vietnamese waters, near Tri Ton Island, part of the Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago.
The rig has completed its oil and gas exploration in the area after 73 days, Xinhua News Agency said.
The platform will be moved to Lingshui, a coastal county of China’s southern Hainan Island, it said.
At 7:00 am this morning, the platform moved about 50 nautical miles from its previous location, near Vietnam’s Hoang Sa archipelago and within the Southeast Asian country’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in the East Vietnam Sea, Tuoi Tre correspondents reported.
The rig was moving at a speed of around 4.1 nautical miles per hour, with the escort of three Chinese vessels.
In an interview with Tuoi Tre over the phone earlier, Colonel Ngo Ngoc Thu, Vice Commander and Chief of Staff of the Vietnam Coast Guard, also confirmed the platform moved 30 nautical miles from its former location.
Major General Nguyen Quang Dam, Commander of the Vietnam Coast Guard, said on Tuesday night that the Vietnamese marine law enforcement force reported that the rig had moved about eight nautical miles from its former spot the same day.
Xinhua News Agency also quoted a petroleum geological expert who is working on the drilling rig as saying that China decided to remove the platform from the Vietnamese waters in order to ensure safety for Chinese workers and their equipment, as the stormy season has begun in the East Vietnam Sea.
The expert also said that the rig has discovered a source of oil in the Vietnamese waters but the exploitation has yet to be carried out as Beijing will have to compile, analyze and assess materials related to the sea area, Xinhua News Agency reported.
“When such assessment is not yet made available, the drilling rig will temporarily not tap oil in the waters,” the expert said.
Over the past two and a half months, Beijing has often deployed more than 100 vessels including military ships to guard the illegal rig, despite Hanoi’s repeated demand for an immediate removal of the platform from the area.
During the time when the rig was placed in Vietnam’s waters, these vessels often rammed or fired their water cannons at local ships.
Such attacks have so far injured 15 fisheries surveillance officers together with two fishermen, as well as damaged 27 boats belonging to Vietnam’s marine law enforcement and Coast Guard forces and seven local fishing boats.