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China inks new pact with Australia for Antarctic research
November 9, 2015, 7:40 am

A Chinese scientific exploration team reaches the Antarctic in February 2015 [Xinhua]

A Chinese scientific exploration team reaches the Antarctic in February 2015 [Xinhua]

Antarctic researchers from Australia and China have signed a trans-national pact that will allow the two countries to share data used to forecast sea-ice conditions.

China’s National Marine Environment Forecasting Centre and Australia’s Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) signed the agreement in Hobart on Monday.

This is the second agreement between Australia and China on the Antarctic.

China and Australia in November last year inked a memorandum of understanding on bilateral Antarctic cooperation, raising hopes for agreement on conservation and food security in the resource-rich region.

Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and then Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott witnessed the signing of the deal in the port city of Hobart in Tasmania state, Australia’s gateway to Antarctica.

Acting Chief Executive of the CRC Mark Kelleher said on Monday the agreement would mean Australian and Chinese scientists would share information about sea ice conditions around the region.

“This agreement is about us pooling our capabilities, so that we can become better at forecasting where the sea ice difficulties are going to be and therefore helping navigation processes,” he said.

The two sides were collaborating in the region for 30 years, Kelleher said, adding that research vessels, which could get stranded in sea ice, would benefit greatly from the collaboration.

“Unpredictable sea ice conditions can create headaches for scientific and resupply operations in Antarctica, and the need for a more reliable method of forecasting has become clear. We have also seen a number of private and commercial ships becoming stuck in the sea ice in recent years, which can lead to costly rescue operations that delay scientific work.

“We believe this partnership places us in a strong position to take a lead in developing the models and techniques required to provide reliable sea ice forecasting to aid Antarctic shipping,” Kelleher said.

“Interest is growing in the Antarctic, particularly in relation to its importance for understanding climate change. The Chinese are as interested as we are in the research that is going on there to understand what all that’s going to mean for us,” Kelleher added.

Scientists from both organizations travel to the icy continent each year to conduct research, and must restock stations to enable their researchers to stay in the area for lengthy periods.

China launched its 32nd Antarctic expedition when research vessel and icebreaker Xuelong (Snow Dragon) left a Shanghai dock on Saturday morning.

The sea-ice data is important as ‘icebreakers’ – ships designed to channel through ice allowing accompanying ships safe passage – can become stranded in certain areas.

Last year, record sea-ice levels led to several of these specialized ships becoming trapped in the ice.

Late last month, Australia’s Prime Minister PM Malcolm Turnbull announced that a new $350 million icebreaker would be built to replace the ageing Aurora Australis which has sailed the Southern Ocean since 1989.

Kelleher said Australia and China had a rich history of cooperation in Antarctica, having shared information on the region since the mid 1980s.

“This agreement is about us pooling our capabilities, so that we can become better at forecasting where the sea ice difficulties are going to be and therefore helping navigation processes,” he said.

The last intact section of one of Antarctica’s mammoth ice shelves is weakening fast and will likely disintegrate completely in the next few years, contributing further to rising sea levels, according to a NASA study released earlier this year.

Antarctica has dozens of ice shelves – massive, glacier-fed floating platforms of ice that hang over the sea at the edge of the continent’s coast line. The largest is roughly the size of France.

Natural resources in the Antarctic include massive oil reserves with some projections suggesting oil fields of the Ross Sea in the region are second only to oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

The European Union and 24 nations, including Russia and China are members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

A CCAMLR meeting in Perth last year exposed the difference in approach to issues of food security and marine life conservation between China, Russia on one hand and the EU, US and Australia on the other.

The region boasts of rich reserves of fish and krill.

China opened its fourth Antarctic research station, Taishan, last year, with a fifth station also being planned. The US currently has 6 stations in the Antarctic.

 

TBP and Agencies

2 Responses to China inks new pact with Australia for Antarctic research

  1. Eddy Reply

    November 9, 2015 at 9:29 am

    Hang on a second please. This article claims, to quote ” Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott witnessed the signing of the deal in the port city of Hobart in Tasmania state, Australia’s gateway to Antarctica.” Unquote. This same article claims to have been posted, November 9, 2015, 7:40 am .
    This simply cannot be true. Tony Abbot is NOT THE AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER, has not been so now for quiet a few months.
    In fact our Prime Minister’s name is Malcom Turnbull, and I hazard to say, he’d be most upset to read this article and the false claims therein.
    May I suggest a correction is posted immediately ?

  2. Editor Reply

    November 9, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    Hi Eddy,

    The reference to the Australian prime minister came immediately following the link to the November 2014 meeting between both leaders.

    The word ‘then’ has been added for greater clarity.

    Thank you for pointing that out.

    Editor

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