The National Science Council (NSC) has earmarked NT$600 million (US$18 million) to support a NT$1.5-billion project to build a new ocean research ship capable of withstanding harsh winter conditions and surveying areas off the southwestern coast for gas hydrate reserves, NSC officials said yesterday.
Previous estimates have pre-dicted that gas hydrate reserves beneath the seafloor in the area might be as much as 500 billion cubic meters.
However, the three existing research ships are all too old and small to operate during winter, leaving a three-to-four-month gap every year when surveying cannot take place.
These three ships belong to National Taiwan University, National Taiwan Ocean University and National Sun Yat-Sen University, and have displacements of 750 tonnes, 275 tonnes and 275 tonnes, respectively.
NSC Deputy Minister Yang Hung-duen (
NT$1 billion of the total funding will be spent on the vessel and NT$500 million on fittings. Following the first year's NT$600 million, the NSC will fuel the project with another NT$900 million in the following two years.
The new ship will be operated by the Center for Ocean Research under the National Applied Re-search Laboratories, he added.
Yang said gas hydrate would become a vital source of energy in the next one or two decades, and as a result Taiwan has to speed up its pace of discovering reserves and measuring their capacities.
"A ship capable of year-round operation is what we need," he said.
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