BEIJING, July 31 (Xinhua) -- China's first government-backed icebreaker project for polar expeditions officially entered the implementation phase when a basic design contract was signed Tuesday.
The contract was signed by the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration (CAA) under the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), the Polar Research Institute of China and the Finland-based Aker Arctic Technology Inc., which will participate in the design of the icebreaker.
The new 8,000-tonne vessel, China's second after the Ukraine-built Xuelong, will have an endurance of 20,000 nautical miles and be capable of breaking ice with a thickness of 1.5 meters, sources with the SOA said.
Moreover, it will be designed to accommodate 90 people and two helicopters, with an overall length of 120 meters, maximum breadth of 22 meters and draught of 8.5 meters.
"With a 580-square-meter lab and a 700-square-meter deck, the ship will provide enough space for scientific research in various fields," said Qu Tanzhou, director of the CAA.
According to the SOA, the new vessel, which will be built in China, is expected to greatly boost the country's expedition capacities in polar and oceanic regions.
Due for operation in 2014, the new icebreaker will join the Xuelong in polar expeditions.