The ground force of the People's Liberation Army commissioned its largest ship in Sansha, Hainan province, on Monday, planning to use it to transport materials to islands in the South China Sea.
PLA Daily, the military's newspaper, reported on its website on Tuesday that the ship is a new-generation logistics support vessel for the PLA Army. It is 90 meters long and has a full-load displacement of 2,700 metric tons, making it the largest ship in the Army's watercraft fleet, the report said, without revealing the vessel's designated class.
The ship is capable of ferrying heavy-duty weapons and accommodating a helicopter. It will be used to transport supplies, weapons and equipment to places in the South China Sea and to conduct search and rescue operations there, the newspaper said.
Photos released on the website show the ship bearing a designation of GY820, which indicates it belongs to the Guangzhou Military Command.
Cao Weidong, a researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told China Daily that Army soldiers guard many islands in the South China Sea and that transporting their living necessities is the Army's responsibility.
"Compared with the Navy's logistics support vessels, which mainly supply combat ships at sea, the Army only uses such ships to transport materials to soldiers stationed on islands, so their ships are smaller and have fewer weapons," he said.
According to earlier reports, the PLA Shenyang Military Command received a ship of the same class in November last year.
Footage broadcast by China Central Television showed that the Shenyang Military Command ship can carry at least one Type 99 main battle tank, which weighs around 60 metric tons, and several trucks.
CCTV quoted Colonel Zhang Xichun, head of shipping operations at the Shenyang Military Command, as saying that, compared with other transport ships of the PLA Army, the new vessel has a higher speed and takes less time to load and unload.