Punta Arenas welcomes Chinese icebreaker “Xue Long”
Chinese icebreaker “Xue Long”, one of the largest in the world, was received in the Mardones Pier of Punta Arenas by several regional authorities, led by the mayor of Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica, Dr. Jorge Flies, the director of the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH), Dr. José Retamales, and Ignacio Covacevich, manager of Empresa Portuaria Austral (EPA).
Commander Qin Weijia, who leads this 32nd Chinese Antarctic expedition, received the greetings on behalf of the Chinese crew and said that “in recent years, Antarctic studies have been very important for everyone especially due to the temperature rise. For this important reason, many scientists worldwide have set their eyes on Antarctica”.
Given that Punta Arenas is located close to Antarctica, the round trip between the two continents is much more expeditious, Qin Weijia said. For example, traveling around Australia requires a two-week delay in order to reach the Chinese base “Zhongshan”. He added that with the improvement and growth of INACH, Chile could be part of the chain to move scientific samples from Antarctica to various destinations.
Mayor Jorge Flies added that the Chilean government has made an effort to position Chile and particularly Punta Arenas as a development centre in Antarctic logistics and scientific research. “The Government of Chile will make a very important investment in digital connectivity of ports and Antarctic laboratories in the Region of Magallanes, so they can accommodate the needs of nations that are working with our country, such as China,” Flies said.
Meanwhile, Dr. José Retamales, director of INACH, said that cooperation between Chile and China has been growing since 2015, when the first Sino-Chilean expedition was made. “We expanded the collaboration between the two countries; last year we started a joint expedition where nine Chinese scientists were invited to navigate on the Achilles ship and it turned out to be a great experience; that is why a second joint expedition, again aboard the Achilles, will take place from February 15 to 25.
Director Retamales added that cooperation is growing and Universities might be included, which is why a first Sino-Chilean scientific workshop was held in 2015 and a second workshop will be held in Shanghai in 2016.
Ignacio Covacevich, manager of EPA, was very satisfied with the “Xue Long” docking in Punta Arenas, saying: “What we want from the Chinese scientific program is that they take us as a base port, as the United States does today with two of its icebreakers based in our city”
The “Xue Long” was completed in 1993 and returned to Punta Arenas after 16 years.