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New Voyage for Ocean Science
China kicked off a new round of oceanic scientific research yesterday, sending its newly updated research ship Dayang Yihao to the Pacific Ocean from Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province.

Chen Bingxin, president of the China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association, has high hopes for the latest voyage, predicting it could provide new energy resources to fuel the fast developing Chinese economy.

He said the new trip will focus on further exploration in the country's Contract Area approved by the International Seabed Authority in May 2001.

The trip will also investigate, collect, classify and record deep sea biological resources. The ultimate goal is to establish the country's first specialistic research base using the world's most advanced techniques to develop genetic resources.

Moreover, Chinese scientists will test the country's latest marine technologies, such as underwater robots, and will try to set up an environmental monitoring system to facilitate future deep-sea mining operations.

With the Earth's terrestrial resources unlikely to meet the needs of the expanding world population and vast global economy, more and more countries are turning their eyes to the seas for their future energy supplies.

Occupying about 70 per cent of the Earth's total surface area, the sea is believed by many scientists to boast huge potential for various energy sources that human society needs, such as oil, gas and manganese.

Although China began its exploration work much later than some developed countries, its scientists are making impressive achievements, said Chen.

After 11 voyages over an eight-year period, Chinese scientists have managed to mark out a 75,000-square-kilometre area. The International Seabed Authority has awarded China exclusive prospecting rights and priority in the commercialization of polymetallic nodules in the area.

The area is estimated to have reserves of 420 million tons of polymetallic nodules, of which 3 million tons can be exploited in the next two decades.

The authority granted the prospecting rights in recognition of Chinese government and scientists' efforts in exploring seabed for the benefit of humanity, said Chen Rongfa with the No 2 Marine Research Institute of the State Oceanographic Administration in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province.

A leading deep sea research force in China, the institute hosted the country's first research base in the field in March.

However, it might take the country another seven years to industrialize its deep sea technologies, said Chen.

"Lots of research still need to be done," he said.

(China Daily April 11, 2003)

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