Video: China Unveils its Fourth Research Icebreaker

Ji Di
Guangzhou Shipyard (file image courtesy CSSC)

Published Dec 31, 2023 6:54 PM by The Maritime Executive

China is further expanding its icebreaker fleet with a new polar class vessel set to join service in the second quarter of 2024. Last week, China revealed the designs of its next-generation research vessel Ji Di, currently under construction at Guangzhou Shipyard International.

The vessel measures 89 meters long with a width of 17.8 meters, with displacement of 5,600 tonnes. It has capacity for 60 crew members and a range of 26,000 kilometers, with at-sea endurance of up to 80 days. 

Additionally, the vessel will be equipped to carry drones and underwater autonomous robots for deep polar seabed exploration.

Construction of Ji Di at Guangzhou Shipyard is happening concurrently with that of another Polar Class 4 icebreaking research vessel, which is tentatively named Tan Suo San Hao. Its construction began in June and is slightly bigger than Ji Di with a length of 103 meters and a displacement of about 9,200 tons. The vessel will have enough capacity for 80 crew members.

Ji Di is expected to be delivered in 2025, bringing the total number of Chinese research icebreakers to four. The first two icebreakers include Xuelong 1 and Xuelong 2, which China is currently using for missions to replenish supplies in its seven stations in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

The expansion of China’s icebreaking fleet has empowered the country to make year-round scientific expeditions to the geopolitically-important polar regions. China has conducted 40 scientific expeditions in the Antarctic since 1984 and another 12 in the Arctic since 1999. This translates to a wealth of scientific and environmental data on these regions, positioning China as a rising power in the Earth’s frozen frontiers.