According to the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a Beijing-based think tank, the Norwegian ship ‘The Grand Canyon II’ has been undertaking undisclosed operations during the past months, Manila Times report.
The vessel GRAND CANYON II is an Offshore Support Vessel built in 2015 and currently sailing under the flag of Norway. According to the Manila Times article, the vessel is seemingly affiliated to US oil and gas company Helix Energy and has many connections to the US military.
Tracking data released by SCSPI shows that the Grand Canyon II has been operating near the island of Taiwan and in the South China Sea over the past month, which raises questions. The Grand Canyon II arrived in Yokosuka, Japan, from Guam in early March to carry an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter that crashed into the ocean on 25 January.
Observers pointed out that the US Navy has ports in Nagasaki and Yokosuka and since the ship had worked with the US military, the Grand Canyon II is very likely to be a spy ship hired by the US military for special missions, a military analyst who preferred to remain anonymous shared with the Global Times.
On Monday Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert told the Global Times that the US has had a history of using civilian vessels for military missions. This particular ship could be supporting the US Navy in reconnaissance and intelligence gathering near the island of Taiwan. Wei Dongxu noted that it could also serve as a secret base and special agents could use it for transport and covert operations.
Previous revelations by the SCSPI have shown that the US military has also hired private aircraft for close reconnaissance operations in China.