The South China Sea will be a "must-past region" in the scheduled global expedition of China's submersible Jiaolong, scientists said Tuesday.
The deep-sea manned submersible, named after a mythical dragon, is scheduled to start year-long global expedition in July 2020, Ding Zhongjun, deputy chief engineer at the National Deep Sea Center in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
The submersible will cover the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans, while the South China Sea region, which has a significant role in China's deep sea research, would be a must-pass region during the expedition, Ding said.
The South China Sea mission is expected to focus on exploring and sampling natural resources in the region, such as natural gas hydrates, as well as on environmental protection in the deep sea, Ding added.
International scientific circles believe natural gas hydrate is the best replacement for oil and natural gas, the Xinhua News Agency reported. The southern areas of the South China Sea, especially regions along the nine-dash line, are rich in the resource.
China is actively promoting deep-sea research and technical cooperation with countries in and around the South China Sea, such as Indonesia and Singapore, Ding said.
Jiaolong's global expedition will cover over 10 countries, most of which sit along the Belt and Road route, Ding explained, adding that the expedition will promote regional exchanges on some of the leading technologies on deep-sea research to a new level.
The leading technologies and equipment, which enable China to have first-hand data, have given the country a bigger voice in global oceanic governance and research, Ding said.
The Jiaolong is capable of diving in virtually all seas to a depth of less than 7,000 meters, scientists said.
Before the 2020 expedition, China will have the submersible upgraded and will finish construction of a new mothership.
The mothership is expected to undergo sea trials by around March 2019. It is likely to carry China's unmanned Qianlong and Hailong submersibles in the future for deep-sea research to reach a wider area, and gather higher quality data in a more efficient way, Ding said.
Hailong and Qianlong returned to the National Deep Sea Center on May 3, after completing 45-day comprehensive sea trials.