Thanks to Tups for bringing this to my attention. He mentioned it in comments on an earlier post, but I felt it warranted a separate post.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports, the Australian Government is close to a “decision to select a British-based operator and Dutch shipyard for Australia’s $1 billion Antarctic icebreaker project.” gCaptain provides additional details and more images.
The new 156-metre long, 23,800-tonne vessel will have increased cargo and marine science capability but is expected to carry around the same number of passengers.
Its crucial ice-breaking capacity will give it the power to steam through 1.65-metre ice, compared to Aurora‘s 1.23 metres.
The $1B may sound familiar, about what the USCG expects to spend on a new Polar Icebreaker, but in fact that includes its full lifecycle cost and these are Australian $$, so in fact it is more like $710M. Presumably there will be savings because the ship will be built in Romania.
Perhaps inevitably the procurement process has been criticized. That there is only one bidder and the ship will not be built in Australia, both cause concern.
The ship is expected to operate out of Hobart, Tasmania.
The ship appears narrower than conventional icebreakers. It appears to be a hybrid, combining cargo, research, and icebreaking functions in a single relatively large ship.
Australia’s claims on Antarctica (held in abeyance now because of treaty) are extensive. Looking at the diagram below, they appear to include about half of the larger Eastern half of Antarctica. It may be that their stations are more accessible than those of the US. Their stations lie close to the Antarctic Circle while McMurdo is about 600 miles closer to the pole. In the Northern hemisphere the North coast of Iceland and the Bering Strait are on about the same latitude as their Antarctic stations.