China plans to build its own ocean-drilling research vessel to enhance the country's exploration of deep-sea resources, according to an expert.
The vessel, dubbed Dream, would be the third in the world if completed, following the United States' JOIDES Resolution and Japan's Chikyu, or Earth.
A feasibility study into the vessel's construction has already begun, according to Wu Lixin, head of Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, which is spearheading the project.
Wu, who is also an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, believes building Dream would boost the development of deep-sea related technology in China and enhance the country's reputation for making such equipment.
The ultimate aim is drilling into the Earth's mantle, he said, a feat that has yet to be achieved.
A series of projects concerning deep-sea research and exploration were included in China's 13th Five-Year Plan as the country looks to build itself into a maritime power.
Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology was officially put into operation last October.
Scientists from 11 marine-related organizations, including the Ocean University of China and the Institute of Oceanology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, will be involved in the laboratory's research.
With a total investment of 1.3 billion yuan ($200 million), the laboratory covers an area of 150,000 square meters and has eight main labs covering research areas such as marine and climate change, evolution and protection of marine environments, and sustainable use of marine biological resources.
The laboratory is expected to become one of the world's top five oceanographic research institutions within the next three years, competing with the likes of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the United States, and the National Oceanographic Center of Britain, Wu said.