China starts construction of 1st polar research
SHANGHAI - Construction of China's first domestic-built polar research vessel and icebreaker began Tuesday in Shanghai, giving a boost to the nation's polar expedition efforts, according to the Polar Research Institute of China.
The vessel is scheduled to be completed in 2019, when it is expected to team-up with research vessel and icebreaker Xuelong (Snow Dragon).
Xuelong is currently China's only icebreaker carrying out polar research expeditions.
Yang Huigen, head of the institute, said the move would improve the nation's capabilities in supporting polar expeditions and surveying the polar marine environment.
On completion, the new vessel alongside veteran Xuelong will give China's polar research more diversified services.
The new vessel will be 122.5 meters long and 22.3 meters wide, with a displacement of 13,990 tonnes and a navigation capability of 20,000 nautical miles. It is being built by Jiangnan Shipyard (Group).
It will be able to break through ice 1.5 meters thick at a maximum speed of 3 knots, according to the institute, which said the vessel can accommodate up to 90 people.
Yang said the vessel will be able to open ice on both its bow and stern, and is capable of sailing unrestricted in global navigating waters .
Equipped with internationally advanced marine survey and observation devices, the new vessel will be an important platform for the nation to conduct polar research on marine environments and resources, the institute said.
Scientists will be able to carry out comprehensive surveys and observation of the polar marine environment, taking samples while observing the marine environment related to climate change, as well as conduct surveys on oil, gas and living resources in iced areas and polar regions.
Xuelong is currently on China's 33rd Antarctic expedition and scheduled to return to Shanghai in April next year.
Put into use in 1994, the Ukraine-built vessel was mainly designed for transporting supplies to China's research stations. It can break ice as thick as 1.2 meters.
A new vessel is necessary because expeditions by Xuelong alone limit China's scientific research and resources in polar regions, in addition to deficiencies in shape, power supply, icebreaking capabilities, and research.
In January 2014, Xuelong was stuck in floating ice in Antarctica after evacuating passengers on a stranded Russian vessel.
Compared with Xuelong, the new ship will be easier to control in iced areas, making it safer for scientific research and navigation, the institute said.
The new icebreaker has been jointly designed by the China State Shipbuilding Corporation and Finland-based Aker Arctic Technology.
In addition to advanced scientific devices, the ship is environmentally friendly in compliance with international standards to protect the polar environment.
According to Yang, the vessel will be equipped with an exhaust gas cleaning system, providing a solution to tackling pollution caused by the ship.
"The advanced overall design of the new vessel not only reflect the nation's determination to explore polar regions but also shows its attitude toward protecting such regions," Yang said.
Once it goes into operation, the vessel will form a polar research fleet with Xuelong, conducting scientific research missions and transporting supplies to polar regions.
The nation sent its first team for scientific research in the Antarctic in 1984. Since then, China has established four scientific research stations in Antarctic region.
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