China has launched a new marine research vessel to boost its exploration activities, including in the disputed South China Sea, according to state media.
The Shiyan-6, or Experiment-6 – a geophysical and seismic survey ship owned by the Chinese Academy of Sciences – was launched in Guangzhou on Saturday and is expected to be commissioned next year, state news agency Xinhua reported.
“It will help to safeguard China’s state sovereignty and also its maritime rights and interests, increasing the country’s building of maritime power,” Long Lijuan, deputy director of the academy’s South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, was quoted as saying.
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It comes after the United States last week formally rejected most of Beijing’s expansive maritime claims in the strategic, resource-rich South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
According to Xinhua, the new 500 million yuan (US$71.5 million) vessel will be used for research including on geophysics, ocean physics, sea-air interaction and marine chemistry.
It will also be used to collect data on topography, landforms, currents, and biomes in extreme environments such as deep trenches.
Researchers will be able to process and analyse survey samples in its on-board laboratories, and send data to those on land via satellite.
The vessel can carry a crew of up to 60, has a displacement of 4,000 tonnes and can spend up to 60 days at sea, covering some 12,000 nautical miles, according to the report.
Long said the new ship would boost China’s exploration activities and contribute to developing marine, oil, gas, mineral and biological resources.
China has more than 60 oceanographic research vessels and other exploration ships, 37 of which are part of its national oceanographic survey fleet.
Some of those government survey ships, like the Haiyang Dizhi 8, have been in the spotlight over controversial missions in the South China Sea.
In April, the Haiyang Dizhi 8 was sent to waters near Malaysia, where it reportedly tagged an exploration vessel operated by Malaysian state oil company Petronas.
The incident followed a months-long stand-off with Vietnamese vessels last year near Vanguard Bank, a reef in the Spratly Island chain claimed by both China and Vietnam. The survey ship and coastguard vessels had entered the waters in July, apparently to send a message over drilling operations in the area.
Meanwhile, the Shiyan-1, another research ship operated by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was expelled by the Indian Navy in December as it carried out research activities without permission near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean.
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This article Chinese research ship launched to boost exploration activities, including in South China Sea first appeared on South China Morning Post