Australia to Build a Polar Icebreaker

An artist's impression of Australia's new icebreaker.

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.

512px-Antarctica_CIA_svg

10 thoughts on “Australia to Build a Polar Icebreaker

    • The most obvious reason is probably the lack of money, but I don’t think the USCG has any need for a vessel like this. I mean, the McMurdo resupply is done with conventional cargo ships escorted by icebreakers, not a combined research/resupply vessel.

  1. “Presumably there will be savings because the ship will be built in Romania.”

    Keep in mind in absence of offset deals, work done in a foreign country is twice as expensive as it sounds.
    As a rule of thumb 40-60% of expenses return in form of taxes et cetera when a government buys domestic goods or services, and additional savings (less unemployment pay et cetera) may happen on top of that.

    On the other hand, domestic purchases entice the government to hide subsidies in a too high purchasing price (example 3rd German fleet replenishment ship ‘EGV’).

  2. Romanian shipyards have been used by a number of navies to build the hull plus HME systems with the rest being done in home country. New built in home country is often made more difficult by politics. Go look at what Canada had to go through for JSS?
    OTOH work done in home country shipyards WILL be to known CG and classification society standards.

    • “It will … have a stronger ice breaking capacity of 1.65 metres thanks to a new in-hull stabilisation system.

      “The objective of stability in high seas and the objective of not getting jammed in the ice, on the face of it, work against each other,” the Prime Minister said.

      “There is clearly some very clever innovative technology that will enable us to do that.””

      I wonder if that refers to an active anti-rolling system that can also be used for “duck walk” in ice?

    • At 156 m, that’s the biggest “Antarctic icebreaker” on the drawing boards anywhere around the world and about 60 m longer than the existing Aurora Australis. The next biggest ships such as Shirase, S. A. Agulhas II and ARA Almirante Irizar are 20-30 m shorter. Only the Chinese Xue Long is longer, but it’s a converted cargo ship with limited ice-going capability.

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