“Icebreaker Xuelong 2 joins service on China national maritime day” –Global Times

China’s first domestically built polar research vessel and icebreaker, Xuelong 2 docks at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai on Thursday morning. Photo: Polar Research Institute of China

Global Times is reporting completion of China’s first domestically produced Polar Icebreaker. (Their existing polar icebreaker was built in the Ukraine.)

According to Wikipedia, she was designed by Finnish firm Aker Arctic Technology. Specs are as follows.

  • Polar Class 3
  • Double Acting, can break ice going ahead or astern
  • Displacement of 14,300 tons
  • Length: 122.5 metres (402 ft)
  • Beam: 22.3 metres (73 ft)
  • Draft: 8.3 metres (27 ft)
  • Max Speed: 15 knots
  • Accommodations: 90 Passengers and crew
  • Diesel-electric propulsion system, two 16-cylinder, two 12-cylinder engines, both Wärtsilä 32-series, drive through two 7.5 MW Azipods. Just under 20,000 HP

It is a lot smaller than the planned Polar Security Cutter, but it is also larger and about as powerful and almost certainly more effective than the Glacier that served the US effectively for many years.

The hull and power plant looks like something we might want for our medium icebreakers, and I note, it looks like this size could negotiate the Saint Lawrence Seaway. That would mean a similar ship could potentially operate both on the Great Lakes and support Atlantic Fleet operations if required.

Thanks to Tups for bringing this to my attention.

7 thoughts on ““Icebreaker Xuelong 2 joins service on China national maritime day” –Global Times

  1. I keep seeing questions like “why does China need a polar icebreaker” but no-one questions e.g. South Korea, Japan, Germany and Argentina possessing similar vessels, or Sweden having their Oden which can easily reach North Pole but is not very good for Baltic Sea escort operations.

    It’s okay to question it from geopolitical point of view (all that “near-Arctic state” bullshit), but on a general level there’s nothing strange in it.

    • The Chinese also have research stations in Antarctica.

      At some point the Chinese may want to transit the Northern Sea Route or the North West Passage without asking permission from the Russians or the Canadians.

      • One thing should be noted: while Xue Long 2 is probably capable of transiting the NSR and/or NWP independently for most part of the year (which in itself would make news), it is not designed to escort other ships in ice like the Russian icebreakers do. In particular, the hull is relatively narrow compared to merchant ships, it’s not really optimized for maneuverability in ice (even with the Azipod units) and operation in close proximity to other ships, and the vessel lacks towing equipment. Any escort operation would be just as challenging as what we witnessed off Nome in 2012 when USCGC Healy escorted the Russian tanker to the port – it could probably make it, but it wouldn’t look very “efficient”.

      • Of course, we don’t know what the Chinese are planning next. Icebreakers have been historically quite expensive, but the Chinese could probably built a bare-bones escort-capable icebreaker at a fraction of the cost of existing Russian, Finnish, Swedish etc. icebreakers. With two such vessels in service, they could easily escort convoys either along the “true” NSR (claiming freedom of navigation) or just outside Russian territorial waters.

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