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In August 2012 Aker Arctic won a contract from the China State Oceanic Administration (SOA), Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration (CAA) and the Polar Research Institute of China (PRIC) to design a new icebreaking polar research vessel for China. Scheduled to begin operating in 2014, the new icebreaker will join China's other icebreaker, Xuelong (purchased from Ukraine in 1993), on polar expeditions.

China will launch a new icebreaker for use during an upcoming 2013 polar expedition. Both the new icebreaker and Xuelong ("Snow Dragon"), an icebreaker that operated in Antarctica, will form an Arctic-Antarctic maritime research team. The new icebreaker will boast facilities that will allow it to research the oceanic environment, integrate data for real-time oceanic monitoring, deploy and retrieve detectors and conduct aerial studies using helicopters. The new icebreaker can carry up to 60 scientists and 8,000 tons of equipment while churning its way through through ice up to 1.5 meters (nearly 5 ft) thick.

"China will have at least two icebreakers concurrently operating at both the north and south poles," Chen Lianzeng, deputy director of the State Oceanic Administration, told a national conference on polar research in June 2011, which has been the first since 1984 when the country started expeditions in polar regions. The two icebreakers will conduct expeditions in polar regions for more than 200 days annually.

Designed to carry a total of 90 people, the new icebreaker will have a length of 120 meters, breadth of 22.3 meters and draft of 8.5 meters. The 8,000 ton vessel will be capable of breaking through ice up to 1.5 meters thick, sailing at a speed of 2-3 knots. Equipped with twin azimuth propeller drives, the vessel will have dual classification from the China Classification Society (CCS) and Lloyds Register of Shipping (LR).

The design work is expected to take seven months to complete, upon which the design package will be offered to a design firm or shipyard for the detailed design and workshop drawings of the vessel. The new icebreaker will be fitted with scientific equipment for polar oceans research, as well as an integrated survey system that includes marine geological and geophysical equipment, along with marine biological and ecological instruments. The vessel will also have marine and atmospheric observation and sampling capabilities related to climate change monitoring for the integrated environmental science programmes.

After completion, the vessel will be used to undertake ecological surveys and act as a biological research platform for marine biological and ecological programs. China is also planning to undertake technological upgrades on Xuelong in 2013 to expand its service life by another 15 to 20 years, according to China Daily.

China's new icebreaker was orginally planned to debut in a polar expedition in 2013, an oceanic official said on June 21, 2011. The new icebreaker is able to research oceanic environment, integrate data for real-time oceanic monitoring, deploy and retrieve detectors, and conduct aerial studies with helicopters, Chen Lianzeng, deputy director of the State Oceanic Administration, told a national conference on polar research.

By 2013, the new icebreaker and Xuelong ("Snow Dragon"), an icebreaker that operates in Antarctica, will operate concurrently at both the north and south poles. The two icebreakers will conduct expeditions in polar regions for more than 200 days annually, Chen said. A fixed-wing aircraft will also be included in the expedition before 2015. It will transport researchers between China's Zhongshan and Kunlun research stations and the Grove Mountains at Antarctica.

China has built three Antarctic stations -- Changcheng (Great Wall), Zhongshan and Kunlun -- and one Arctic station -- Huanghe (Yellow River) Station. The Kunlun station was Chinas first research station on inland Antarctica. It was put into use in early 2009. The Zhongshan station, set up in 1989, now serves as a supply base for the Kunlun station. Since the early 1980s, China has sent 27 Antarctic expedition teams and completed four research missions to the Arctic Ocean.




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