Image Courtesy: Damen/Australian Antarctic Division
The construction of Australia’s new Antarctic icebreaker has begun with a steel cutting ceremony held at Damen Shipyards Galati (DSGa) in Romania on May 31.
Planned to arrive at its home port of Hobart in mid-2020, the new ship will replace the aging Aurora Australis which has been serving the Australian Antarctic Program since 1989.
“These first pieces of steel will start to form the base of the ship as one of 57 modules, some weighing up to 300 tonnes, to be put together to form the icebreaker over the next two years of construction,” Rob Bryson, Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) Modernisation Manager, explained.
The new Antarctic Supply Research Vessel (ASRV) is the centerpiece of the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan launched in April 2016. The AUD 1.9 billion (USD 1.42 billion) package will cover the design, construction and 30-year operational and maintenance lifespan of the icebreaker. This is said to represent the single biggest investment in the history of Australia’s Antarctic program.
As informed, the 160-meter-long vessel is expected to be the main lifeline to Australia’s Antarctic and sub-Antarctic research stations, and the central platform for scientific research in the region.
“The new vessel is a multi-mission ship designed to sustain our geographically dispersed stations, support helicopter operations, sustain shore parties on remote islands, map the seafloor and undertake a variety of scientific activities across the Southern Ocean,” Bryson further said.
To fulfill these diverse roles, the ASRV boasts considerable cargo capacity – up to 96 TEU below decks and 14 TEU and six 10-foot containers on the aft deck, as well as more above the helicopter hanger and in front of the helideck.
What is more, the vessel will be equipped with a 500 square meters onboard laboratory that will serve as a workspace for up to 116 AAD scientific staff.
The construction program is being managed on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Energy, by Australian company DMS Maritime (Serco Defense) which is responsible for both the overall design, building and the operation and maintenance of the ship when it is commissioned.
The laying of the keel is scheduled for late August, according to AAD.
In May, the competition to name the icebreaker opened for entries. Designed to engage Australian students from years 5 to 8 in the Antarctic program, the competition closes on June 9, with the new name to be announced in September.
While the construction and outfitting of the vessel will be carried out at Damen Shipyards Galati, the engineering and project management will be provided by Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding in the Netherlands.