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Submersible planning to dive in South China Sea

(Xinhua)

08:53, July 17, 2012

Visitors take pictures of manned submersible Jiaolong at a dock in Qingdao yesterday.(Photo from Shanghai Daily)

MANNED submersible Jiaolong may undertake a deep sea dive mission in the South China Sea next year, a commanding officer said yesterday.

The sub docked at Qingdao in east China's Shandong Province yesterday after its record dive of 7,020 meters in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench during a 44-day mission.

Liu Feng, field commander in chief, said a team was applying to take part in next year's mission.

"Their proposal is under an official appraisal. Once approved, it will mark Jiaolong's first mission since the dive tests," said Liu, deputy head of the administrative office of the China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association.

Jin Jiancai, head of the association's administrative office, said China was accelerating its deep sea research by setting up a national deep sea support base in Qingdao and building a new mother vessel for Jiaolong to succeed Xiangyanghong-9.

China plans to eventually build a deep sea station, where submersibles can dock undersea and oceanauts can stay to work, Jiaolong designer Fang Shujia said.

Liu said female candidates will be considered for next year's mission.

"Women tend to be more scrupulous and patient than men in deep sea missions, which is an advantage due to the long hours of work in the sub's small cabin," Liu said.

Cui Weicheng, deputy commander of the project and Jiaolong's co-designer, said there were plans to develop another submersible able to dive to depths of 4,500 meters.

"Most deep sea research can be completed by a sub with a diving range of 4,500 meters. It can cut operation costs by 40 percent in comparison to using Jiaolong," he said.

"Jiaolong had to complete as many as six dive operations during the Mariana Trench dive tests, as well as deal with the undersea landscape and conduct surveys," said Xu Qinan, its chief designer.

Meanwhile, Chinese vessels of a different sort are already in the South China Sea.

A fleet of fishing boats from the southern province of Hainan was set to begin fishing near Yongshu Reef last night, a day after they arrived at the Nansha Islands.

The fleet of 30 boats, the largest ever launched from the island province, tried fishing late on Sunday but failed because of heavy rain.

Dark clouds were still lingering over the reef yesterday, but the fishermen were hoping for the best.

The fleet, which includes a 3,000-ton supply ship, is due to spend the next five to 10 days fishing near Yongshu Reef, according to sailors of the fleet.

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