China's first domestically-built polar icebreaker Xuelong 2. [Photo/VCG]
China's second-and its first domestically built-research icebreaker, Xuelong 2, will set sail on Tuesday from Shenzhen, Guangdong province, for its first polar journey.
The ship will be a major part of China's 36th Antarctic expedition, which involves 413 scientists, researchers and support staff, and will make stops at two Chinese Antarctic research stations-Zhongshan and Changcheng-with members of the expedition team to conduct scientific operations on the largely frozen continent, according to Qin Weijia, director of the Ministry of Natural Resources' polar expedition office.
It will also make a port call in South Africa related to scientific cooperation projects, Qin told reporters at a news conference in Shenzhen on Monday.
The vessel's partner-Xuelong-will set sail from Shanghai on Oct 22 and join Xuelong 2at Zhongshan for joint survey operations. Then the two icebreakers will separate and perform their tasks independently.
Qin said Xuelong 2will return to China in late March while Xuelong will come back in mid-April.
"The participation of Xuelong 2will make the 36th Antarctic expedition China's first polar mission carried out by two icebreakers and also the expedition performed at the highest technological level," said Sun Bo, deputy director of the Shanghai-based Polar Research Institute of China.
Zhao Yanping, captain of Xuelong 2, said: "The vessel employs a lot of technologies and functions that Xuelong does not have. Its service will extensively boost our country's research capability in polar regions."
He said that to prepare for the Antarctic mission, Xuelong 2underwent a trial run in August in the South China Sea to test its equipment.
Xuelong 2arrived in Shenzhen on Sunday afternoon from its home port of Shanghai and will be open to 1,200 members of the general public for tours on Monday and Tuesday.
Before the commissioning of Xuelong 2in July, China only operated a single icebreaker-Xuelong-which was designed for cargo transportation rather than scientific research operations when it was built in Ukraine in 1993. Xuelongwas purchased by China and converted into a polar research and resupply vessel. It has carried out dozens of scientific expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic.
Xuelong 2was jointly designed by Finland's Aker Arctic Technology in Helsinki and China's Marine Design and Research Institute in Shanghai. Its construction began at Jiangnan Shipyard Group in Shanghai in 2016.
The vessel is 122.5 meters long, 22.3 m wide and has a displacement of 13,996 metric tons. With a maximum speed of 15 knots, or 27.8 kilometers per hour, the icebreaker can sail more than 37,000 km in a single voyage and carry out 60-day expeditions with 90 crew members and researchers.
With state-of-the-art design and advanced equipment, the icebreaker is capable of operating anywhere around the world.
Designers said the vessel can break 1.5-meter-thick ice at speeds of 2 to 3 knots, and can operate in temperatures as low as-30 C.