A new ship called the Tian Kun Hao - also dubbed the 'magic island maker' - has become Asia's largest dredging vessel. The ship produces artificial islands by digging up quantites of sand at a rate of 6,000 cubic meters per hour, and then depositing the matter over exisitng masses, including rock formations and even coral reefs.
The creation of artifical islands both in the South China sea and around the world has faced vast criticism as being unstable and ecologically detremental. Research has shown that Dubai's 'The World' Archipelago - a set of artificial islands positioned to represent a world map - are eroding and deteriorating back into the sea. Furthermore, the unchecked creation of artifiical islands has a serious ripple effect on surrounding ecosystems.
China's main aim is to use the technology to bolster its military presence in the South China sea by creating military bases, which could heighten hostilities with its neighbours. Land reclaimed from the sea has already led to conflicts - between Singapore and Malaysia, for instance.
Another agenda could be to address resource constraints linked to a growing population - through the creation of floating cities, for instance. Can such proposals really be carried out without further damage to marine ecosystems already at the point of crisis?