Korea launched a high-tech boat to service its Ieodo research station south of Jeju Island, the government said Friday.
The 90-ton boat called the Haeyang Nuri cost 8.2 billion won ($7.2 million) to build and has a maximum speed of 35 knots, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said.
Because of its superior speed and latest navigational systems, the new boat can reach Ieodo in about three hours after leaving Jeju, it said. The unmanned station lies about 160 kilometers south of the resort island and has equipment and sensors to follow typhoons, help predict weather and detect changes to the maritime environment.
At present, researchers and maintenance personnel must charter a fishing boat to reach the station, which can take more than 10 hours.
"Ieodo is unmanned most of the time, but people and equipment are sent to the station on a regular basis for maintenance," a official at the state-run Korea Hydrographic and Oceanographic Administration said. The administration will be in charge of operating the boat.
The 33-meter-long Haeyang Nuri is equipped with the latest collision avoidance radar, automatic navigational system and sonar equipment to check water depth. It is also the first ship in the world to be equipped with an "air bumper" designed to protect it from collisions with much larger vessels.
In addition to servicing Ieodo, the boat will be used to send people and equipment to other maritime research stations off South Korea's coast. (Yonhap)