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September 28, 2012

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Chinese icebreaker explores trade route

THE melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean will offer a short-cut for China's commercial fleet to reach Europe and North America after Shanghai-based icebreaker Xue Long tried a new route to the North Pole on its fifth expedition to the Arctic.

The ship with 119 scientists including four foreign scientists and one from Taiwan on board returned to Shanghai yesterday after a 93-day exploration to collect data and do experiments on climate change, marine environment and Arctic natural resources and economic development.

"The sea ice melting, though imposing threats to wildlife living in the North Pole like polar bears and the global climate, offers a great opportunity for commercial route development," said Weng Lixin, vice director of the Polar Research Institute of China. "If traveling along the Northern Sea Route close to the North Pole, the distance between Shanghai and Hamburg in Germany will be shortened by one third. It brings much economic profits for China."

Officials also released the details of a second icebreaker, for which development is running smoothly.

"Xue Long has limited abilities for ice-breaking, which meant we failed to reach the 90 degree north latitude due to the complexity of sea ice there during this expedition," said Chen Hongxia, assistant of the expedition team's chief scientist. "Xue Long can break ice up to 1.1 meters in depth, while the new ship will be able to break ice 1.5 meters in depth. Such ice-breaking ability is similar to icebreakers of western countries." The new icebreaker will be put into use in 2014.


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