China third ocean drilling research vessel
China to build ocean drilling research vesselGetty Images

China plans to build the world's third ocean drilling research vessel, hoping to become a major player in international deep-sea drilling by 2028.

Wang Pinxian, a marine geologist from Tongji University who is also with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, disclosed the plans at a press event to announce the successful completion of a drilling mission to find out how the South China Sea was formed millions of years ago, reports Xinhua news agency.

The drilling mission was conducted on board a US vessel as part of the 367th and 368th expeditions of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Programme (IODP).

China joined the IODP and took part in three drilling missions in the South China Sea in 1999, 2014 and 2017. The ships used by the IODP were JOIDES Resolution and Chikyu.

The latest mission was proposed by Chinese scientists, and over 60 researchers from more than 10 countries were involved in it.

Wang said the mission marked the first step in a three-part strategy by China to engage in international ocean drilling activities.

He added that China aims to drill seabeds in other oceans. It also wants to set up the world's fourth seabed rock database and a lab before building the ocean drilling vessel.

Jian Zhimin, marine geologist at Tongji University and co-lead of the IODP, said they dug 17 holes at seven sites in the South China Sea. The drilling depth exceeded 7,669 metres during which they collected samples like sedimentary and volcanic rocks. Scientists say the formation of the South China Sea was different from the Atlantic.