Chinese icebreaker Xue Long will dock in Hobart twice over summer, with the Tasmanian Government estimating the two port calls will inject $2.5 million into the local economy.
The Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration made the announcement as Premier Will Hodgman holds meetings in China as part of the Asian trade and investment mission.
It will be the first time the Xue Long has made two port calls to Tasmania during summer, after docking in Hobart in 2014 to coincide with the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Speaking from Shanghai, Premier Will Hodgman said the visits would help to establish Tasmania’s status as Australia’s Antarctic gateway.
He said the timing and length of the visits would were yet to be determined.
“It will be a stop that generates an extraordinary amount of economic activity for Tasmanian businesses,” he said.
“Tasmanian Polar Network have been part of our trade mission, so they’ve been working very closely with our Chinese counterparts.
“They’ll work on the details as to when the visits will occur and how they’ll be well serviced by Tasmania’s great Antarctic sector.”
A leading American think tank has previously warned that Australia’s Antarctic territory is under threat from China’s expanding interest in the continent.
But Mr Hodgman said he had not received any advice from Australian authorities, or Tasmania’s Antarctic community, that there were concerns about Chinese activity in the area.
“We do not believe that these visits are contrary to the national interest,” he said.
“These visits facilitate operations that go to ensuring that research, scientific endeavour, proper management and conservation of the continent is front of mind for all countries who have a presence there.”
Tasmanian Greens Leader Cassy O’Connor said on Friday that Mr Hodgman should not have dismissed concerns about Chinese government activity in Antarctica in comments he made earlier this week.
“Will Hodgman is either a fool or he is naive or he is a coward,” Ms O’Connor said.
“He is most certainly not making statements that are in the national interest.”
Ms O’Connor did not comment on whether Tasmania’s economy would benefit from visits from the Chinese icebreaker.
“It’s one thing to have the occasional icebreaker drop in and resupply, but what Will Hodgman was talking about in Beijing [on Thursday night] was much more than that,” she said.
“It was a signal that he and his government wish to see a much closer relationship with the Chinese government in relation to Antarctica. That is a concern.”
Mr Hodgman said although a number of countries were expanding their presence in Antarctica, the sector was heavily regulated.
By Alexandra Humphries and Ellen Coulter