VESSEL REVIEW | Zhihai – Multi-role research and signals testing vessel for Chinese government

Photo: Aerospace Information Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences

China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), through its shipbuilding subsidiary Zhejiang Jiang Zengzhou Heavy Industries, has handed over a new vessel for use by the Chinese government in its scientific research activities.

Zhihai (“Smart Ocean”) has a length of 70 metres, a beam of 13 metres, a displacement of approximately 2,000 tonnes, and a range of just over 3,000 nautical miles. The vessel can cruise at 16 knots and sail at a maximum speed of 20 knots. It can also spend up to 30 days out at sea to carry out extended-duration missions in support of the Chinese Government and even the private sector.

The new vessel was designed by CSSC marine engineering subsidiary Seventh Institute in compliance to China Classification Society (CCS) rules. It was developed specifically to operate as a multi-disciplinary research vessel, with ample space on its aft deck for carrying tethered drones, tethered balloons, communication cabins, underwater communication sensors, and various other pieces of scientific equipment.

The vessel will be used for a broad range of scientific activities that include but are not limited to underwater mobile network signal monitoring, sea surface mobile network signal monitoring, underwater acoustic communication positioning, and testing of maritime electronic countermeasures (ECM) systems to be used by the country’s defence and security sectors.

Photo: China Classification Society

The vessel’s main roles, however, will be in the areas of marine scientific investigation in coastal as well as offshore waters in and around China and the testing of technology that will be used in long-range emergency communications in maritime applications. As an example of the latter, the vessel was recently employed in the East China Sea as a mothership for a tethered balloon with a 30-kilogram payload that contains an assortment of sensors used for testing the feasibility of airborne AIS data reception, SOS data reception, LTE signal coverage, and line-of-sight microwave transmissions.

This three-day project, which was carried out by the Chinese Academy of Science’s Aerospace Information and Research Institute, is part of the Chinese government’s broader, ambitious “Smart Ocean” initiative that seeks to make emergency communications possible over long distances at sea even in the absence of civilian mobile network signals.

Although it was designed primarily to carry out research missions, the new vessel is also versatile enough to be used for emergency response duties at sea should the need arise. Its high operating speed of 20 knots will enable it to quickly reach and render assistance to other vessels in distress in China’s coastal and offshore waters.

More great content as part of this week’s Research and Training Week right here.

Type of vessel:Research vessel
Classification:China Classification Society
Owner:Chinese Government
Operator:Chinese Government
Designer:Seventh Institute, China
Builder:Zhejiang Jiang Zengzhou Heavy Industries, China
Length overall:70 metres
Beam:13 metres
Displacement:2,000 tonnes
Maximum speed:20 knots
Cruising speed:16 knots
Range:3,000 nautical miles

Baird Maritime

The best maritime site on the web. The sea's our scene!