China has started building its first ever polar expedition cruise ship, according to state news agency Xinhua. The country looks to shipping lanes opened due to global warming to extend the Belt and Road initiative to the Arctic of President Xi Jinping.
Construction of the 104-meter Greg Mortimer, equipped with advanced electric propulsion and control system for navigating ice, is expected to be completed by August next year. It is the first of up to ten newbuild expedition vessels for SunStone ships.
In January 2018 China released its first official Arctic policy white paper, in which it revealed plans to encourage companies to create infrastructure and conduct commercial trial cruises with the goal of building “Polar Silk Road”.
The Belt and Road initiative is aiming to boost the global role of the country by connecting China to countries in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere via large infrastructure projects.