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The 36,000-ton Roll on/Roll off [RORO] vessel called the “Bohai Pearl” made its maiden voyage on Aug. 8 from its home port Yantai in China’s Shandong Peninsula.

The RORO vessel is an essential element for military sealift — specifically, in delivering wheeled military vehicles such as trucks, tanks, and armored personnel or assault carriers to faraway places.

The ship has its own built-in ramps and can upload and offload large cargo without cranes. The Bohai Pearl has three-levels, with a capacity for more than 300 military vehicles.

The Bohai Pearl was commissioned by the Shenyang Military Region of the People’s Liberation Army. The maiden voyage was hailed by China’s official media, especially military press outlets, as a significant step forward in enhancing the PLA’s long-range strategic delivery capability.

Official state-controlled media said the Bohai Pearl, during its maiden voyage, carried several dozen armored vehicles, howitzers and other heavy military equipment. A military official from the Shandong-based Jinan Military Region was quoted as saying that the Bohai Pearl could also be used in wartime as provisional military barracks, capable of accommodating more than 2,000 troops.

The PLA is rapidly improving its strategic military delivery capabilities.

Analysts say the Bohai Pearl is expected to be used for moving a sizable number of combat vehicles and wheeled weapons to places such as the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

The Bohai Pearl also will be used to bolster closer strategic sea links between the PLA’s Shenyang Military Region in the northeast and the Jinan Military Zone in eastern China.

China’s military operates seven military regions. Three — the Beijing, Shenyang and Jinan military regions — are well placed to guard the Bohai sea area in the northeast and the capital, Beijing. The three military regions are connected by land routes. ROROs such as the Bohai Pearl will serve as a vital sea connection.

Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.