China has begun to build a dedicated port to support deep sea research in the South China Sea, a move experts said on Sunday will serve many ocean-related activities as well as national defense.

Construction work on the port of the China State Shipbuilding Corp’s (CSSC) South China Sea test support base started in Sanya, South China’s Hainan Province on Wednesday, the company said in a press release posted to its official Weibo account on Friday.

Aiming to build a world-class oceanic test capability, the base will serve deep sea tests for all industries in multiple fields and support the construction of an advanced national defense industry system, CSSC said.

As a core and leading project in the South China Sea test support base, the new port will enable key test vessels to moor, according to the press release.

The test support base is expected to host research vessels that carry out wide and detailed surveys on the South China Sea’s environment and hydrologic information as well as other scientific research, Song Zhongping, a Chinese TV commentator and defense expert, told the Global Times on Sunday.

The maritime situation in the South China Sea is complicated and the underwater environment is constantly changing, so the base is also important in understanding the South China Sea and will contribute to navigational safety, Song said.

In terms of national defense, the base could enable more complex and challenging tests in the deep sea, Song said.

As construction started on Wednesday, a ceremony was held that saw the first vessel stationed at the base, namely the Beidiao 996 test ship, which was specifically designed by CSSC to support test missions in the South China Sea, CSSC said in the press release.

The Beidiao 996 is China’s largest comprehensive deep sea test catamaran that can carry out multiple missions including scientific research, environmental surveys and comprehensive support, China Central Television reported in April 2022, when the ship made its maiden voyage from Dalian, Northeast China’s Liaoning Province to Sanya.

More vessels are expected to make use of the new base upon its completion, observers said.

From Global Times