New ship to boost Arctic expeditions
Updated: 2012-02-24 07:23
By Wang Qian (China Daily)
The vessel was purchased from Ukraine in 1993, and has a service life of about 30 years.
"Xuelong cannot meet China's demand in polar expeditions," the official said, adding the vessel has a heavy task in delivering supplies and people to polar stations.
He added the new vessel will focus on conducting scientific research in ocean exploration.
Since 1984, Chinese scientists have explored the Antarctic every year, but have had only four Arctic expeditions since 1999.
Huang Rong, the chief engineer of the vessel, told China Daily earlier that Xuelong is due for a technological upgrade in 2013 at an estimated cost of 200 to 300 million yuan. The upgrade can expand its service life by another 15 to 20 years.
With nearly 30 years' development in polar expeditions, China has built Arctic Yellow River Station in Svalbard, Norway, Great Wall Station in the Shetland Islands, west Antarctica, Zhongshan Station in the Larsemann Hills, east Antarctica, and Kunlun Station located on Dome A, the highest place in Antarctica.
But with a shipping route opening up as the Arctic ice cap melts and untapped energy resources, the interests of many countries are growing and some questioned China's purpose in exploring the region.
The official from the administration said China lags behind some countries in Arctic scientific research technologies and has relatively little knowledge about the nature of the region.
"The potential economic value of the possible shipping route is of economic interest to most countries in Europe and Asia, not only to China," he said, adding analysis and research of the route are normal.