China's Polar Icebreaker Embarks on First Arctic Mission

China’s first domestically built polar icebreaker Xue Long 2 has set sail on its first mission to the Arctic, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reports.

Xuez Long 2 (Snow Dragon 2) departed Shanghai Wednesday with a team of Chinese scientists on board to conduct investigations in areas including the Chukchi Rise, Canada Basin and the central Arctic Ocean, Xinhua reports. The voyage is expected to cover some 12,000 nautical miles and conclude in late September.

The expedition is said to be organized by China’s Ministry of Natural Resources to study biodiversity and ecosystems, ocean acidification and chemical environment and new pollutants, to improve the nation’s scientific understanding of climate change in the Arctic.

Delivered from the Jiangnan Shipyard in July 2019, the icebreaking research vessel commenced operations in October, completing its first Antarctica expedition in April.

Designed by Finnish firm Aker Arctic, the Polar Class 3 Xue Long 2 measures 122.5 meters long, with a beam of 22.3 meters, 8.3 meters draft at full load and displacement of 14,300 metric tons.

The ship’s diesel-electric propulsion system includes two 16-cylinder and two 12-cylinder engines, both Wärtsilä 32-series designs, powering two 7.5-megawatt (MW) ABB Azipod propulsion units that enable speeds up to 15 knots in open water and 2-3 knots (ahead or astern) when continuously breaking through ice up to 1.5 meters thick plus snow up to 0.2 meter.

The vessel is outfitted with wet and dry laboratories, a large aft working deck served by several cranes and a moon pool. The ship has space for 90 scientists and crew, and enough capacity to undertake resupply missions to research stations. 

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