China is set to commence sea trials for its first ocean research drilling vessel, Mengxiang, capable of drilling at depths exceeding 10,000 meters (32,800 feet). This marks a significant advancement in China’s deep-sea oil and gas exploration capabilities.
The vessel, according to Reuters designed for ultra-deepwater research and drilling, is a crucial addition to China’s marine exploration fleet.
Mengxiang can travel 15,000 nautical miles (27,780 kilometres) and operate continuously for 120 days without returning to port, a state media reported on Monday.
The vessel’s sea trials will be a crucial step in assessing its performance and capabilities. No details were given on the location of the sea trials.
The announcement of the sea trials comes amid rising tensions in the resource-rich South China Sea. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. recently stated that his country could initiate new energy exploration projects in the disputed waters.
China and the Philippines have been exchanging accusations over ship encounters in the South China Sea, where territorial claims overlap among several nations.
China asserts nearly the entire South China Sea, a vital route for over $3 trillion in annual ship-borne commerce. Disputes over territorial claims involve the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.
In March, China and the Philippines resumed discussions about joint oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea, but progress has been slow, with President Marcos expressing dissatisfaction with the developments on Saturday. Mengxiang’s capabilities could play a crucial role in such exploration activities in the region.