China launched its first modern scientific research vessel Saturday to help boost the country's marine exploration capability in the South China Sea (SCS).
The launch will “further safeguard its maritime sovereignty and interests,” state media reported.
China has had several confrontations with SCS nations over its research vessels operating in their claimed territorial waters. In May this year, Chinese survey vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8, accompanied by several coast guard and maritime militia vessels, encroached into Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to protest Malaysia’s ongoing energy exploration activities.
Christened as “Shiyan-6,” the ship is the country’s “first modern scientific research vessel focusing on geophysical exploration and seismic acquisition and processing,” the report said. The launching ceremony took place in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province and the vessel is expected to enter service in 2021.
Costing 517.5 million yuan ($74 million), the vessel has a length of 90.6 meters, a width of 17.0 meters, a depth of 8.0 meters, and a gross tonnage of 3,990 and able to accommodate 60 crew members. Its maximum speed is 16.5 knots, with an endurance of 12,000 nautical miles, and a self-sustaining capacity of 60 days.
Able to carry out investigations in geophysics, ocean physics, sea-air interaction, marine chemistry and other disciplines, the vessel is also capable of surveying and sampling topography, landforms, currents, and biomes in extreme environments such as deep trenches.
Samples that it collects in the ocean can be quickly processed and analyzed in laboratories abroad the vessels, and data transmitted to land-based laboratories.
“The launch of this national marine research vessel greatly improves China's ocean exploration and data acquisition ability, which is an important step for the development and utilization of marine space resources, oil and gas minerals and biological genetic resources,” Long Lijuan, deputy director of the South China Sea Institute of Oceanology (SCSIO), was quoted as saying by Science and Technology Daily.
"It can help safeguard China's state sovereignty and also its maritime rights and interests, increasing the country's building of maritime power," Long said.
China has more than 60 oceanographic research vessels and other professional investigation vessels in service, of which 37 have joined the national oceanographic survey fleet.
However, these vessels are more focused on speed, and often neglect the disturbance of air bubbles on acoustic equipment on the bottom of the vessel, which will cause the equipment to fail in more extreme sea conditions, according to Cai Xiaoyang, chief shipbuilding engineer at SCSIO.
The Shiyan-6 has solved the contradiction between speed and anti-bubble interference by adopting a linear model with small concave noses on the body to ensure an optimal path of bubble leakage and minimize the impact on acoustic equipment at the bottom.