China Launches Icebreaker Xuelong 2

Published Sep 10, 2018 7:28 PM by The Maritime Executive

China launched Xuelong 2, the nation's first locally-built icebreaker, on Monday.

A ceremony was held at Jiangnan Shipyard for the polar research vessel, which is expected to enter service next year.

In 2012, the Polar Research Institute of China awarded the contract for the concept and basic design of the vessel to Aker Arctic. Construction of the 122.5-meter, 13,990 ton vessel began in December 2016. 

The Polar Class 3 vessel will have a range of around 20,000 nautical miles and is designed to break 1.5-meter-thick ice at speeds of two to three knots in both ahead and astern directions. She can operate in temperatures down to -30oC, has a maximum speed of 15 knots and can accommodate 90 crew and researchers.

The hull form was designed with good seakeeping characteristics and low open water resistance. A special box keel provides a disturbance-free flow environment for bottom-mounted scientific instruments in both open water and ice. The diesel-electric power plant and propulsion system, which consists of four main generating sets, two 7.5 MW azimuth propulsion units and two transverse bow thrusters, provides the vessel with redundant DP2 class station keeping capability.

The scientific outfit includes both wet and dry laboratories, a large aft working deck served by several cranes and winches, and a moon pool with scientific hangar that allows for the deployment of scientific instruments in ice-covered seas. The large forward cargo hold, heavy crane and cargo fuel tanks allow the vessel to carry out resupply missions to scientific research stations. The aviation facilities include a landing platform and a hangar for two helicopters.

Xuelong 2 is larger than the 15,300-ton Ukraine-built icebreaker Xuelong which is currently in service. Another icebreaker is already slated - this one capable of breaking three-meter ice and sailing in temperatures down to -45oC.

To date, China has conducted 34 Antarctic expeditions and eight Arctic expeditions.