MV Xue Long

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Xue Long, Fremantle, 2016 (4).jpg
Xue Long departing from Fremantle in March 2016
Name: Xue Long (simplified Chinese: 雪龙; traditional Chinese: 雪龍; pinyin: Xuě Lóng)
Owner: Polar Research Institute of China[1]
Port of registry: Shanghai, People's Republic of China
Builder: Kherson Shipyard, Ukraine
Yard number: 6003[2]
Laid down: 1 January 1990[1]
Completed: 1 March 1993[1]
Acquired: 1 March 1993[1]
Refit: 2007
Identification:IMO number8877899
Call sign: BNSK
MMSI number: 412863000[3]
Status: In service
General characteristics
Type: Research vessel
Tonnage: 15,352 GT[1]
4,605 NT[1]
8,759 DWT[1]
Displacement: 21,025 tons
Length: 167 m (548 ft)
Beam: 22.6 m (74 ft)
Draft: 9 m (30 ft)
Ice class: CCS B1
Installed power: BMZ 8DKRN60/195 (13,200 kW) (1993–2013)
Wärtsilä 6RT-flex60C (13,200 kW) (2013–)[2]
Propulsion: Single shaft, ducted controllable-pitch propeller
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph) (max)
1.5 knots (2.8 km/h; 1.7 mph) in 1.1 m (3 ft 7 in) ice
Range: 20,000 nautical miles (37,000 km; 23,000 mi)[4]
Complement: 34 crew, 128 passengers or researchers
Aircraft carried: One helicopter
Aviation facilities: Helipad
Notes: 100 m2 (1,100 sq ft) laboratory space

Xue Long (simplified Chinese: 雪龙; traditional Chinese: 雪龍; pinyin: Xuě Lóng; literally: 'Snow Dragon')[5] is a Chinese icebreaking research vessel. Built in 1993 at Kherson Shipyard in Ukraine, she was converted from an Arctic cargo ship to a polar research and re-supply vessel by Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding of Shanghai by the mid-90s. The vessel was extensively upgraded in 2007 and 2013.

As of 2018, Xue Long is the only Chinese icebreaking research ship in service. A second Chinese polar icebreaker named MV Xue Long 2, slightly smaller but more capable than Xue Long, is currently under construction and is expected to enter service in 2019.[6]


A model of Xue Long, showing her prior to the 2007 refit.

Built at the Kherson Shipyard in Ukraine, Xue Long started her life as a Project 10621 icebreaking cargo and supply ship designed for the Russian Arctic.[7][8] She was purchased by the People's Republic of China when the vessel's technical readiness level was 83%[9] and completed as a polar research and re-supply vessel in 1994.[10][11][12] In 2007, the ship was extensively upgraded to extend her service life by another 15 years. During the mid-life refit, the ship received a new superstructure that considerably changed her external appearance.[13] She received another technical update in 2013 which included replacing her main engine.[14]

Xue Long is 167 metres (548 ft) long and has a beam of 22.6 metres (74 ft). When loaded to a draft of 9 metres (30 ft), she has a displacement of 21,025 tons. The ship was originally powered by a single[14] 8-cylinder BMZ 8DKRN60/195 low-speed two-stroke diesel engine, a licence-built version of B&W 8L60MC, producing 13,200 kW (17,700 hp). During the 2013 refit, the main engine was replaced with an equally powered Wärtsilä 6RT-flex60C diesel engine.[2] The main engine is coupled to a ducted controllable-pitch propeller.[15][16] In open water, Xue Long can achieve a maximum speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph) while in 1.1-metre (4 ft) ice she can proceed at 1.5 knots (2.8 km/h; 1.7 mph). Her ice class, assigned by the China Classification Society (CCS), is B1.[4]

Xue Long has a crew of 34 and can accommodate 128 researchers or passengers. She has 100 square metres (1,100 sq ft) of laboratory space. In addition to a Kamov Ka-32 "Xueying" (Snow Eagle) helicopter, the ship also carries an Arctic class ARV autonomous underwater vehicle on a regular basis.


Visit to Canada[edit]

Xue Long unexpectedly arrived in 1999 at the small Canadian coastal village of Tuktoyaktuk, on the Arctic Ocean.[17][18][19]

The inability of the Canadian authorities to track the vessel stirred enough controversy that the incident is still being cited as evidence of Canadian unpreparedness to defend its northern sovereignty.[17][18][19]

Arctic expeditions[edit]

Drift ice camp in the middle of the Arctic Ocean as seen from the deck of icebreaker Xue Long.

The ship undertook a second Arctic expedition from July 15, 2003 to September 26, 2003.[10] More recently the ship had been used in connection with China's efforts to maintain a scientific presence in the Antarctic.

Although used primarily to support China's annual expeditions to Antarctica, Xue Long has made four voyages to the Arctic, via the Bering Strait in 1999, 2003, 2008 and summer 2010. During her 82-day voyage in JUL-SEP 2010, the ice-strengthened research ship was able to reach a new 'highest North' record (for China), reaching 88.22 degrees North latitude, at 177.20 degrees West longitude. At that point a team of scientists boarded the ship's Ka-32 helicopter and flew to the North Pole on 20 August 2010.[20] The ship returned to Shanghai on 20 September 2010. At China's annual Polar conference held in Shanghai in September 2011, the director of the Antarctic & Arctic agency said that Xue Long would undertake her fifth voyage to the Arctic in July 2012.

Trans-Arctic voyage, 2012[edit]

In the summer of 2012 Xue Long became the first ship from the People's Republic of China to cross the Arctic Ocean to Europe amid the record ice melt.[21] The Xue Long left port on 2 July, sailed through the Bering Strait then joined a westbound convoy on the Northern Sea Route to the Barents Sea, before arriving in Iceland in mid-August. It departed Iceland on 20 August, sailed past Svalbard - without stopping to visit China's Yellow River Station - and made a run at the North Pole, falling short. It then sailed a high latitude line east, back to the Bering Strait, returning to her base in Shanghai on September 27, 2012, completing its fifth Arctic voyage.[22] "Unfortunately we didn't reach the North Pole because Xue Long's icebreaking capability isn't strong enough," said one of the ship's officers.[23] Of note, while China did not state how close Xue Long got to the North Pole in late August 2012, China's Polar Institute did not claim a new "high north" record, suggesting the vessel did not break her record set in 2010.

Antarctic operations[edit]

Xue Long provides annual resupply for China's Antarctic Zhongshan Station at Prydz Bay.[24]

In January 2019, Xue Long hit an iceberg during sea fog whiteout in the Amundsen Sea and sustained damage when about 250 tonnes of ice fell on the ship. CCTV had video of sailors removing large blocks of ice, and China's Ministry of Natural Resources reported damage to the foredeck and mast.[25]

Rescue operation of Akademik Shokalskiy, 2013–2014[edit]

In December, 2013, Xue Long embarked on her first circumpolar voyage in Antarctic.[26] It was heading eastward from Zhongshan Station when it was dispatched along with several other icebreakers by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to free Akademik Shokalskiy which had become trapped in ice off the East Antarctic coast.[27] By 27 December, Xue Long, closed to within 6 nautical miles of the Akademik Shokalskiy, but had stalled in its efforts to complete the rendezvous due to encountering thick ice.[28] Xue Long withdrew to open water to rendezvous with and provide air support for Aurora Australis and L'Astrolabe.[29][30] On 30 December, after all three icebreakers had failed to penetrate the icepack, a decision was reached to use Xue Long's helicopter to evacuate the 52 passengers off Akademik Shokalskiy, but the flights were grounded due to continuing extreme weather conditions.[31] Originally, the plan was to have the helicopter ferry the passengers to a barge with which they would sail to the Aurora Australis, but the Xue Long became stuck in sea ice itself, unable to launch the barge.[32]

On 2 January 2014 beginning at 18:15 Australian time (07:15 GMT) the Ka-32 helicopter from the Xue Long conducted 5 flights airlifting groups of 12 people from the ice next to the Akademik Shokalskiy and landing them on an ice floe near the Aurora Australis.[33] Two additional flights were made to collect their equipment and baggage. The passengers were transferred to a small boat which took them to the Australian ship Aurora Australis as the Ka-32 helicopter is too heavy for the helipad of the Australian icebreaker.[34] The airlift was completed within 4 hours. By 3 January, the Xue Long remained trapped in ice itself although it was in no immediate danger and her captain declined assistance from the still-nearby Aurora Australis.[35] On 4 January 2014, the American icebreaker Polar Star was dispatched to assist Akademik Shokalskiy and Xue Long at request of the Chinese and Australian authorities.[36][37] However on 7 January 2014, a change of wind direction which loosened the icepack around the ships enabled Xue Long and Akademik Shokalskiy to work their own way free before the American ship arrived.[38]

Search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370[edit]

Following the Akademik Shokalskiy rescue operation in the Antarctic, Xue Long docked in Perth, Western Australia.[39] On March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Beijing Capital International Airport disappeared. Satellite imagery from the Australian authorities led the search for the aircraft to an area in the Indian Ocean, approximately 2,500 km (1,600 mi) south-west of Perth. Due to its proximity to this area, Xue Long was dispatched to join the multinational search operation.[40] As of 1 April 2014, Xue Long was on its way back to its home port, Shanghai.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g China Classification Society Archived 2014-01-06 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b c "Xue Long (8877899)". Sea-web. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  3. ^ "Xue Long (8877899)". Equasis. French Ministry for Transport. Retrieved 2012-09-12.
  4. ^ a b A Brief Introduction of R/V Xuelong. Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration. Retrieved 2012-07-17.
  5. ^ Alan Boyle (2013-12-30). "How icebreakers work — and why they sometimes don't work". NBC News. Archived from the original on 2013-12-30.
  6. ^ "First Chinese-built polar icebreaker gets name". Xinhua. 10 October 2017. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  7. ^ Alltför svåra isförhållanden för de tillgängliga fartygen Archived 2014-01-10 at the Wayback Machine. Sjöfarts Tidningen, 4 January 2014. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
  8. ^ List of ships designed by "Chernomorsudoproject" S.A. since 1955. Chernomorsudoproject S.A. Retrieved 2012-11-27.
  9. ^ Состязание ледоколов: как Россия, США и Китай борются за Арктику. PortNews, 30 August 2018. Retrieved 2018-08-30.
  10. ^ a b ""雪龙"船简介 (Xue Long Ship Profile)" (in Chinese and English). Polar Research Institute of China. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2008.
  11. ^ John Rutherford, Antarctic Support and Research Vessels (DOC), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, p. 34, archived from the original on 9 June 2011, retrieved 21 December 2008 Note that the author is mistaken about the name: "Snow Dragon" is the translation of "Xue Long", not a former name of the ship.
  12. ^ "February 2006" (PDF). Davis Station News. Australian Antarctic Division. Retrieved 21 December 2008.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Chinese Antarctic Expedition: Xue Long (Snow Dragon). International Polar Foundation, 14 November 2008. Retrieved 2012-09-12.
  14. ^ a b New icebreaker to improve China's polar research Archived 2011-12-20 at the Wayback Machine. The 4th Media, 4 November 2011. Retrieved 2012-09-12.
  15. ^ La Chine s'intéresse à l'Arctique et à l'Antarctique — Textes Gilles Barnichon & Françoise Massard / Photos Agence Adhemar Archived 2013-09-24 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ "Ivan Papanin (880680)". Register of ships. Russian Maritime Register of Shipping. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
  17. ^ a b "The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence". Parliament of Canada. March 8, 2005. Retrieved 26 January 2008.
  18. ^ a b Ed Struzik (November 18, 2007). "Who will guard our gaping back door?". The Edmonton Journal. Retrieved 26 January 2008.
  19. ^ a b Jane George (1 February 2001). "Arctic borders need tighter control, former commander says". Nunatsiaq News. Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 26 January 2008.
  20. ^ China's Xinhua news agency report from onboard Xue Long, 31 August 2010; "Icebreaker Xuelong ends Arctic Scientific Expedition" Archived 2012-05-10 at the Wayback Machine; accessed 20 JAN 2012.
  21. ^ First Chinese ship crosses Arctic Ocean amid record melt Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine Aug 17, 2012
  22. ^ Icebreaker Xuelong concludes Arctic expedition Archived 2012-09-29 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-05-17. Retrieved 2012-12-27.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ REPORT OF RUSSIA–US JOINT ANTARCTIC INSPECTION Archived 2017-02-07 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Chinese icebreaker damaged after hitting iceberg in Antarctica, CCTV/ABC News Online, 2019-01-23
  26. ^ "Icebreaker Xuelong begins first circumpolar voyage in Antarctic". People's Daily. 2013-12-23. Archived from the original on 2013-12-27. Retrieved 2013-12-30.
  27. ^ Larry Bleiberg (2013-12-27). "Cruise ship trapped in ice off Antarctic coast". USA Today. Archived from the original on 2013-12-29. Retrieved 2013-12-30.
  28. ^ "Chinese icebreaker stalled en route to stranded ship". CNN News. 2013-12-27. Archived from the original on 2013-12-30. Retrieved 2013-12-30.
  29. ^ Alok Jha (2013-12-27). "Antarctic mission on ice as rescue ship is forced back". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2013-12-29. Retrieved 2013-12-30.
  30. ^ John Bacon (2013-12-29). "Help on the way for ship stranded off Antarctica". USA Today. Archived from the original on 2013-12-30. Retrieved 2013-12-30.
  31. ^ "Stranded Antarctic Ship Prepares for Helicopter Rescue". ABC News. 2013-12-30. Archived from the original on 2013-12-31. Retrieved 2013-12-30.
  32. ^ Nicky Phillips (2014-01-02). "Helicopter rescue delayed as second ship trapped in ice". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 2014-01-02. Retrieved 2014-01-02.
  33. ^ "All passengers confirmed rescued from icebound Antarctic ship". The Voice of Russia. 2014-01-02. Archived from the original on 2014-01-02. Retrieved 2014-01-02.
  34. ^ Nicky Phillips (2013-12-31). "Antarctic rescue mission goes awry". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 2013-12-31. Retrieved 2013-12-31.
  35. ^ "Chinese ship Xue Long 'stuck in ice'". BBC News. 2014-01-03. Archived from the original on 2014-01-04. Retrieved 2014-01-03.
  36. ^ "US icebreaker heads to Antarctic to help stuck ships". Yahoo News. 2014-01-05. Archived from the original on 2014-01-08.
  37. ^ "U.S. Icebreaker to Assist Stuck Russian, Chinese Ships". United States Naval Institute. 6 January 2014. Archived from the original on 7 January 2014. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  38. ^ "Antarctic ships escape from ice trap as weather changes". The BBC. 7 January 2014. Archived from the original on 7 January 2014. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  39. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-05-10. Retrieved 2016-12-15.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  40. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-03-23. Retrieved 2014-03-22.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]