A view of the main body of a Chinese ultra-deepwater research drilling vessel (Photo/Courtesy of Huangpu Wenchong Shipbuilding Co)
China's first ultra-deepwater research drilling vessel, which can collect samples at depths of more than 10,000 meters, is under construction and set for 2024 delivery, according to Huangpu Wenchong Shipbuilding Co, the builder.
The ship will primarily undertake major national scientific and technological projects, as well as international large-scale scientific programs related to ocean scientific drilling tasks.
The ship is independently designed and built by China, a significant breakthrough for the construction of key equipment serving China's deep-sea exploration.
With a designed displacement of 42,000 tons, the vessel can operate in "unlimited navigation" areas in global seas.
Huangpu Wenchong Shipbuilding Co, located in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province is part of state-owned China State Shipbuilding Corp, the world's largest shipbuilder. The facility is a major construction base for a range of ships including navy vessels, public service vessels, merchant vessels and scientific research ships.
Some well-known ships the company has built include the Dayang comprehensive resource survey ship, the Intelligent mother ship, the Antarctic Kroll boat, and a new type of geophysical comprehensive scientific research vessel.
As of now, there are two ships of the same type in the world. One is the Japanese Chikyu, the other is the US vessel, JOIDES Resolution, a technical director of the project at Huangpu Wenchong, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Global Times on Sunday.
According to a report by the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology in the UK on June 9, the retirement of JOIDES Resolution is now set for 2024, four years earlier than initially expected.
Completion of the drilling ship, which is designed to be delivered in 2024, will likely contribute significantly to scientific research and technological exploration in the marine domain, industry observers said.
In a major step in its construction, the main body of the drilling vessel took shape in December 2022.
"Overall construction progress of the ship is now basically under control, though difficulties and challenges remain," the director said.
Breakthroughs have been achieved in more than 10 key technologies, including water dynamics performance optimization and the layout of operational system modules. It has two major operational modes: oil and gas drilling, and ocean scientific drilling, according to the shipyard.
Moreover, 10 types of cutting-edge scientific devices will be installed on the vessel, enabling the establishment of nine major laboratories covering all areas of marine research. For the first time, there will be world-class paleomagnetics and ultraclean labs aboard the ship.
The director said that the ship will have numerous functions and high-performance capabilities. However, its relatively compact size poses significant challenges and difficulties during the design and construction process.
For instance, the installation of core drilling equipment requires high precision and a complex structure that requires the extensive use of high-strength steel has increased welding difficulties and high workload, said the director.
Construction of the vessel comes amid the rising strength of the nation's shipbuilding capability.
Data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology showed that China's shipbuilding output hit 21.13 million deadweight tons (dwt) in the first half of the year, increasing 14.2 percent year-on-year and accounting for 49.6 percent of the global volume.
New orders rose 67.7 percent year-on-year to reach 37.67 million dwt, accounting for a global market share of 72.6 percent.
The China Geological Survey under the Ministry of Natural Resources will be the user of the ship. The ship is expected to strengthen China's deep-sea research capability and serve the nation's efforts to better conserve and develop the oceans, according to a press release from the agency.
China has invested heavily and achieved considerable feats in the field of deep-sea exploration in recent years.