Gray Zone Tactics Playbook: Ramming
Ramming is the act of steering one vessel directly into another, damaging or even sinking it. China's paramilitary People's Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM) operates scores of ships with reinforced steel hulls purpose-built for ramming.
Some instances of ramming may be accidents caused by the failed application of other tactics, such as reckless bow-crossing.
The 2019 ramming of a wooden Filipino fishing boat, the F/B Gem-Ver, by the probable PAFMM ship Yue Mao Bin Yu 42212 caused a major diplomatic crisis between Beijing and Manila.
On the morning of April 2, 2020 near Woody Island in the Parcels, Vietnamese fishing boat QNG 90617 TS was rammed and sunk by China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel Haijing 4301, after which the crews of QNG 90617 TS and two other Vietnamese fishing vessels were forcibly brought to the Chinese outpost on Woody Island for interrogation. The Vietnamese fishermen were only released after confessing to illegally fishing in Chinese waters.
Vietnamese fishermen who came to rescue took these photos of the sinking QNG 90617-TS, courtesy of journalist Nga Pham:
On September 29, 2015 near the Crescent Group in the Paracel Islands, a Chinese ship rammed a Vietnamese fishing vessel while its crew was asleep, according to Vietnamese authorities. The Chinese crew, armed with knives and electric batons, also beat up the Vietnamese crew and stole seafood and fishing gear worth tens of thousands of US dollars. Upon noticing that the Vietnamese boat was sinking, the Chinese vessel left, ignoring the fishermen's request for rescue.
Between May 1 and July 15, 2014, a major stand-off between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels took place after China deployed deep-water drilling rig Haiyang Shiyou 981 into disputed waters off the Vietnamese coast. The operation was protected by a flotilla of Chinese vessels establishing a security cordon around the rig. Vietnam sent dozens of ships to disrupt the survey operation and subsequently documented a number of ramming incidents, including the following video published by the Vietnamese Coast Guard: