Ship in floating dock

Building new vessels for growing ocean research activities in China

General-purpose oceanographic research vessels are becoming hot tenderee among Chinese shipyards. This is a new opportunity for Norwegian offshore & maritime equipment suppliers.

Ship in dock

A new ship in dock at Shanghai shipyard, China (Photo:Thinkstock)

Chinese universities with ambitions to carry out ocean-oriented scientific research programs are planning or have placed orders to build their own research vessels. These universities will become new ship-owners in the coming months and years.

New vessels

Xiamen University, located in southern China’s Fujian province, ordered a 3,000 ton research vessel named “Jia Geng” in memory of its founder, Mr. Chen Jia Geng (Tan Kah Kee) who established Xiamen University in 1913. The vessel is being built in Guangzhou Shipyard Internation (GSI) from March 2015 and is estimated to be delivered by the end of this year.

Zhongshan University, another well-known university located in South China’s Guangzhou city, has got the approval by the Ministry of Education in June 2016 of building a 6,000 ton research vessel. This vessel is believed to be the largest research vessel in Chinese universities. The total cost is estimated at 850 million CNY (approx.128 million USD).

In addition, a number of top universities are planning their own research vessels or have already ordered and are under construction. These include Tshinghua University, Ocean University of China and Shanghai Ocean University.

The 4,700 ton research vessel –“Science”, delivered at Qingdao in September 2012, is the most advanced oceanographic research vessels of China. Chinese Academy of Science is the major owner of the vessel who will use the facility to conduct national research projects.

Polar ice-breaking

The latest news showed that China Ocean Administration is planning to build a new polar ice-breaking research vessel. Seven Chinese shipyards are bidding for the order. The vessel is designed at 12,000 tonner, cost approx. 1.5 billion CNY (approx. 226 million USD)

At present, China has about 40 research vessels. The ocean research activities in China were very much under-developed in the past. Behind the current research vessels “gold rush”, the driving forces are government’s push for deep-sea survey and exploration activities in South China Sea, the increasing and focused polar research as well as the ambitions of upgrading China’s shipbuilding capabilities.

Joint design

The Chinese authorities’ concept “joint design, own construction” sets the guidelines of the research vessel development and it opens market opportunities for Norwegian ship designers, special ship gear suppliers and ocean research equipment suppliers. Some Norwegian suppliers have already been winning the bidding as the supplier to the research vessels under construction in China.

Technology and engineering companies engaged in ocean survey, ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle), DP (Dynamic Positioning) and consultancy services may find new growth in China, despite of the significant drop of activities in the offshore sector.


For more information about Norwegian opportunities in Chines ship building, please contact:

Lin Song
Senior Advisor, Innovation Norway Beijing

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