China has commissioned its first heavy-lift semi-submersible to be operated as a military and civilian dual-use platform, according to the China Military Online website.
Named Zhen Hua 33, the 50,000-tonne vessel is said to be "the largest civilian ship that meets [China's] defence requirements", and is reportedly capable of lifting ships of up to 10,000 tonnes, enabling emergency repairs or recoveries, in addition to the transport of ships, outsize cargo, and other floating structures.
The vessel, which entered service on 14 March in Qidong, Jiangsu Province, can also be used as a flight deck for helicopter operations to achieve a joint force "maritime military relay support". Four landing spots are marked out on the cargo deck.
Zhen Hua 33 was built at Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries' Qidong Marine Engineering shipyard at the mouth of the Yangtze River and was launched in June 2016. Sea trials were completed in February 2017.
The multipurpose ship is reported to be 227 m long, with a beam of 43 m and a normal draught of 10 m, which increases to 27 m when semi-submerged.
Diesel engines provide the primary source of power to drive four main generators, with propulsion provided by electric motors to drive the ship at 14 kt with a range of 18,000 n miles (33,000 km). A dynamic positioning system is installed.
In July 2015, China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned a smaller 20,000-tonne semi-submersible (pennant number 868), which was subsequently photographed transporting one of the service's large Zubr-class hovercraft.
China has also built the world's second-largest semi-submersible, the 100,000-tonne Xin Guang Hua, which entered service in December 2016.
Want to read more? For analysis on this article and access to all our insight content, please enquire about our subscription options: ihs.com/contact