Bairdmaritime provides a review of Australia’s new icebreaking research and supply vessel.

Looking for more information, I found a very extensive description here (click on the menu tab on the upper right). This is a big, powerful, very versitile ship, but I wonder about the choice of propulsion and hope our resident icebreaker expert, Tups, will comment.

First, at 25,500 tons, it is much larger than either Healy (16,000) or Polar Star (13,623 tons). It is way longer as well at 160.3 m (526 ft), compared to Healy (420 ft / 128 meters) and Polar Star (399 ft / 122 meters). She is even larger than the Polar Security Cutter PSC (22,900 tons and 460 ft / 140 meters in length).

A good part of the ship’s size is due to the fact that this ship is more than an icebreaker. While a typical US support mission to Antarctic would envolve three ships, an icebreaker, a supply ship, and a tanker, this ship is a combined icebreaker, dry cargo ship, tanker, and research vessel. The crew is small, 32, but there are accommodations for an additional 117 expeditioners plus 1200 tonnes of cargo and 1.9 million litres of fuel.

Aviation facilities are generous. The hangar can accommodate four small AS350 B3 helicopters or two Sikorsky S-92 that are larger than the H-60s.

It has a large number of boats including a pair of barges. Each barge has two 448 kilowatt (600 horsepower) engines and a water jet propulsion system that provides greater manoeuvrability than propellers. The barges carry general cargo from ship to shore in Antarctica.

On the cargo hatch covers near the bow of RSV Nuyina are two 16.3 metre-long, 6.2 metre-wide barges, each capable of carrying more than 45 tonnes of cargo.

The aluminium barges can operate in calm seas and up to 50 knots of wind, at a speed of eight knots.


What I found most surprising was the choice of propulsion systems. This is a seriously powerful icebreaker, but unlike most modern icebreakers, it does not use steerable podded diesel electric systems (such as Azipods). Instead all power goes through two shafts to controlable pitch propellers. Both the sources reported power comes from two V16 diesel engines (19,200 kW each) geared diesels and 4 diesel generators (7,400 kW each) powered by diesel generators. From the site which Bairdmaritime seems to have copied.

RSV Nuyina can cruise efficiently in open water, operate silently (in ‘Silent R’ mode) during scientific operations, or continuously break ice up to 1.65 metres thick.

RSV Nuyina has a diesel-electric propulsion system that provides different levels of power depending on the task.

In icebreaking mode RSV Nuyina uses its full propulsion system – two V16 diesel engines (19,200 kW each), and 4 electric motors (7,400 kW each) powered by diesel generators.

In its 12–14 knot cruising mode, the ship relies on the electric motors.

There are two engine rooms to provide an enhanced level of safety and redundancy. Each room houses a V16 diesel engine and two diesel generators.

That seemed like an awful lot of power for the modest maximum and cruising speed reported. The descrtiption sounded like a total of 68,000 KW total (about 92,000 HP) but that seemed unlikely.

Wikipedia indicates they max total power is a still very respectable 26,600 KW or 35,657 HP (confirmed here). This would make her slightly more powerful than Healy (2 × 11.2 MW (15,000 hp).

Something did not sound right.

Looking up the MAN 16V32/44CR engines reportely installed I found that they were rated at 9600 KW not 19,200 each, rather that would be the total for the two. Given a total output in the icebreaking mode, of 26,600 KW, 19,200 of which comes from the two main diesels, that means the electric motors would provide an additional 7400 KW total, or probably 3700 KW each which be enough for a 12 knot cruise. That makes sense.


Robert Allan designed Icebreaking Tug Selene

A recent article from Baird Maritime reminded me once again, of a type of vessel I think the Coast Guard should seriously consider, a replacement for the 65 foot icebreaking tugs. Reportedly the Coast Guard hoped to decommission the 65 foot tugs, but Congress would not allow it. Their breaking ice dams for flood prevention and domestic icebreaking was considered too important.

This particular design seems to offer some additional advantages I have not seen in previous designs. Designed to operate in the Baltic in ice up to 0.8 meters thick (that is 0.3 meters more than the 140 WTGBs), it is substantially larger than the 65 footers at 31.5 meters or about 103 feet. The report indicates seaworthiness was a major consideration.

The Congressional contingent from the Great Lakes area have repeatedly expressed concerns about Great Lakes Icebreaking (and here). They want another icebreaker comparable to the Mackinaw, but a few more icebreaking tugs might actually be a better response.

In addition to icebreaking, these could provide a ready response to pollution incidents (this one can transport a standard 20 foot container). Given fire monitors these vessels could function as fireboats.

Of course this tug isn’t the only option, nor is it the only icebreaking tug design out there. I had intended to talk about this earlier, so I have some old news to reference.

When you look at these options keep in mind what we have now.

  • The nine 140 foot WTGBs entered service August 1979 to August 1988 so they are 33 to almost 43 years old and have only 2500 HP, speed 14.7 knots. We have done life extension work on them, but maybe its time to look for their replacements too.
  • The eleven 65 foot WYTLs entered service July 1961 to May 1967 so they are 55 to almost 61 years old and have only 400 to 475 HP, speed 10 knots.

In addition to the tug above, Robert Allen has designed a number of tugs including an icebreaking/buoy tending tug built in the US for the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Check out this Marine Log report.

Gulf Island Fabrication to Build TundRA 3600 for Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation

MarineLink reported that MedMarine (a Turkish shipbuilder) is building some icebreaking tugs for Danish company, Svitzer. (They also have an office in Florida.) The design designated “TundRA 3000″ is by Canadian designer Robert Allan Ltd.

Photo: Med Marine

Photo: Med Marine

TundRA 3000 design has following design particulars:

  • Length overall: 30m
  • Beam of hull: 12.6m
  • Extreme beam (including fenders): 13.2m
  • Depth moulded: 5.7m
  • Maximum draft: 5.6m
  • Gross tonnage: <500GT
  • Minimum bollard pull: 60ton
  • Power: Approx 3900 kW (5300 HP)

Breaking ice on the Kennebec River. USCG Photo

At the small end we have this 56 foot long icebreaking tug with 750 HP, almost twice that of our 65 foot tugs.

My point is not that any particular design is the answer, but that there are much better and more effective designs out there compared to vessels we are currently using. Crew size and operating costs are likely to the same or perhaps less. There is new technology that is more economical, offers better maneuverability, and lower emissions. Additionally they could be more generally useful than the tugs we have. They might have buoy tending capabilities, fire fighting monitors, or provide ready oil pollution incidence response.


CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent alongside USCGC Healy

Baird Maritime reports Quebec shipbuilder Chantier Davie Canada has been awarded a contract to complete a service life extension program on Canada’s largest, most powerful, and oldest icebreaker, CCGS Louis S St-Laurent.

This ship entered service in 1969, about six and a half years earlier than Polar Star. Reportedly the modifications will be conducted in three phases in 2022,2024, and 2027.

The Canadian Coast Guard rates the ship a heavy icebreaker, but by current USCG standards, she is a medium icebreaker. Her size, power (27,000 HP), diesel electric propulsion, and large lab spaces, make her more similar to Healy than to the Polar Star.

The ship has already been extensively modified. In a major refit 1987-1992 the hull was lengthened about 24 feet. A new bow was fitted and her original steam turbines were replaced with diesels. A bubbler system was added and a new hangar forward of the flight deck replaced the previous below deck hangar and elevator system.

The ship has a crew of only 46 but accommodations for 216.

In 2008, a program was initiated to replace the St-Laurent with a 2017 expected in service date for the new icebreaker. After a series of delays and false starts new Polar Icebreakers are not now expected until 2030 (at least).

I wonder if perhaps the Canadian Coast Guard will attempt to keep the St-Laurent in service until their second polar icebreaker is completed, much as the USCG intends to keep Polar Star in service until the second Polar Security Cutter is delivered.

Polar Security Cutter Command and Control

Photo of a model of Halter Marine’s Polar Security Cutter seen at Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exhibition have surfaced. Photo credit Chris Cavas.

I just received my February/March issue of “The Bulletin,” the Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association magazine. It has a good article on the Polar Security Cutter, “The Future is Upon Us,” pages 48-54, by LCdr David Radin, class of 2009.

Unfortunately there are a lot of readers who might be interested in this that don’t have access to the magazine.

Most of it was information I had seen elsewhere, but there was a short paragraph headed “Modern C2” that had some information that was new to me, so I am reproducing it below.

“To meet the modern mission demands, PSC  will be equipped with a highly capable Command and Control (C2) suite for full fleet integration. Additionally, PSC will feature the capability for oceanographic operations, a unique capability for the Coast Guard. This capability far exceeds POLAR STAR’s and comes in the form of a robust sonar suite, over 2000 square feet of reconfigurable science space and room for up to nine 20-foot portable scientific vans, an impressive load-out for science focused missions. This capability is critical for the United States to assert  and enforce legal authority over the increasingly accessible northern edge of the exclusive economic zone.”

These are very large ships with relatively small crews (accommodations for 136 permanent crew and up to 50 additional persons). It looks like we are building in flexibility for the future. That should prove a wise decision.

“Lack of Coast Guard Icebreakers Disrupts Shipping on Great Lakes, Says Task Force” –gCaptain

Launch of USCGC Mackinaw (WLBB-30) on April 2, 2005. Photo by Peter J. Markham.

gCaptain brings us a report on Coast Guard icebreaking on the Great Lakes, based on information provided by the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force, a Great Lakes shipping special interest group.

Should this be a Coast Guard function? There are really two elements here, one commercial and one safety.

The commercial aspect is facilitating commerce. Some might say that shippers and ports should pay for their icebreaking. On the other hand, the Federal Government facilitates commerce in a number of ways including, building roads, air traffic control, dredging ports and waterways, and maintaining navigation systems.

The safety aspect is preventing flooding. This is disaster response before the disaster and certainly something DHS should be interested in.

Great Lakes shipping interest are fixated on the idea of a second Great Lakes Icebreaker in the mold of USCGC Mackinaw.

If we accept that Great Lakes icebreaking is a Coast Guard function, but we don’t want to build a dedicated Great Lakes Icebreaker in spite of an apparent desire on the part of members of Congress to appropriate for that purpose, we have to either convince Congress that devoting additional assets would not be cost effective, that additional money is better spent elsewhere, or offer an alternate plan for Great Lakes icebreaking.

Alternatives might be to make the proposed medium icebreakers capable of operating in and out of the Great Lakes so that they could be used there when conditions warranted or perhaps a new fleet of small but more powerful icebreaking tugs to replace the 65 foot WYTLs would fill the bill.

Each of the alternatives offers a different mix of advantages and costs. This is another area where perhaps the Coast Guard needs to invest a bit more in analysis.

Thanks to Bruce for bringing this to my attention.

65 Foot Tugs

The Coast Guard Cutter Bridle breaks ice on the Penobscot River in Maine March 17, 2015. Operation renewable energy for Northeast Winters. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Marc Moore)

Below is a news release about a routine operation that occurs every year. Keeping harbors open for delivery of heating oil and breaking up ice dams to prevent flooding is seasonal. It is routine, but it is also important.

What I wanted to point out is, that these useful little ships are getting very old and there is no replacement in sight. Replacement with something more capable would be easy and inexpensive.

The Coast Guard commissioned 15 of these 65 foot harbor tugs between 1961 and 1967, during the same period we were also building 378s, 210s, and 82s. Four have been decommissioned, but eleven continue to serve. All are based in the NE, from Baltimore North.

These little vessels are easy to overlook, but they still do important work. They are 54 to 61 years old. They have at most 500 HP. It is pass time to replace them with something better. Here is an example of a 56 foot, 750 HP potential replacement, and with only a little effort, we could probably do better that.

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 1st District Northeast

 Coast Guard to break ice along Penobscot, Connecticut, and Hudson Rivers in support of Operation RENEW 

IMMEDIATE OPPORTUNITY AVAILABLE: The Coast Guard Cutters Bridle, Shackle, and Tackle, are scheduled to break ice along the Bangor, Maine, waterfront on the Penobscot River, Thursday, at 26 Front Street, Bangor, Maine. News media must RSVP with if interested in getting underway for icebreaking operations.

BOSTON — The Coast Guard ice breaking season is underway as winter’s cold temperatures are impacting ports, waterways, and harbors in the Northeast. 

Operation Reliable Energy for Northeast Winters (RENEW) is the Coast Guard’s region-wide effort to ensure Northeast communities have the security, supplies, energy, and emergency resources they need throughout the winter. 

Of the heating oil used in the country, more than 85 percent is consumed in the Northeast, and 90 percent of that is delivered on a Coast Guard maintained waterway by ship. 

The Coast Guard’s domestic icebreaking operations are intended to facilitate navigation within reasonable demands of commerce and minimize waterways closures during the winter, while enabling commercial vessels to transit through ice-covered critical channels. 

Coast Guard crews are also replacing aids to navigation with special ice buoys designed to ride underneath ice and remain on location.  

A coordinated effort with the maritime industry ensures the vital ports of the Northeast remain open year-round. 

COVID-19: The following safety protocols must be followed by all personnel who intend to come aboard any unit for icebreaking:

  • Masks must be worn throughout the event by all attendees
  • Visitors must provide a negative COVID-19 test that is less than 48 hours old (at home test/rapid test/PCR test)
  • Visitors must also provide proof of full vaccination status

“JUST IN: No Room to Accelerate Icebreaker Program, Coast Guard Chief Says” –National Defense

Photo of a model of Halter Marine’s Polar Security Cutter seen at Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exhibition have surfaced. Photo credit Chris Cavas.

National Defense reports,

“The commandant of the Coast Guard dashed hopes Jan. 12 that a much needed new icebreaker will be delivered any sooner than 2025.”

The projected delivery has already slipped a year to May 2025, but the Commandant’s remarks did not sound confident that there will be no further delays.

“The goal right now would be to continue to work with the Navy integrated project office, continue to work with the shipbuilder, finish up the complex detail design [work] and start cutting steel here in ’22,” Schultz said. “If we stay on that track line … I am guardedly optimistic we will take delivery of that ship in ‘25 and be off to the races.”

We are putting a lot on the crew of Polar Sea. They have been having extended yard periods away from home port every year. So far, they have met repeated challenges to keep the old girl running, but we cannot really expect our luck to hold.

“Naval shipyard Tandanor to build new icebreaker for Argentina” –Navy Recognition

Artist rendering of the future icebreaker for Argentinian Navy (Picture source: Argentinian MoD)

Navy Recognition reports, state owned “Tandanor Naval Shipyard will proceed to the construction of a polar ship for the Argentinian Navy.”

“The new polar ship will have a length of 131,5 m, a beam of 23,6 m, and could reach a top speed of 16 knots.”

That is 431’4″ long and 77’5″ of beam.

Argentina is moving to strengthen their claim on territory in Antarctica.

In 2015 they completed repairs on their only icebreaker which had suffered a serious fire in 2007.

In 2019 Argentina contracted for four Offshore Patrol Vessels, three of which were to be ice-strengthened. Two of the ice-strengthened OPVs have already been delivered and the third should be delivered this year.

Argentina’s claim on Antarctica overlaps those of the UK and Chile.


Contract Option for Second Polar Security Exercised

DOD reports a contract option for design and construction of the Second Polar Security Cutter has been exercised. Notably this is a Navy contract. Completion expected Sept. 2026.

VT Halter Marine Inc., Pascagoula, Mississippi, is awarded a $552,654,757 fixed-price incentive modification to previously awarded contract N00024-16-C-2210 to exercise an option for the detail design and construction of the second Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, Mississippi (61%); Metairie, Louisiana (12%); New Orleans, Louisiana (12%); San Diego, California (4%); Mossville, Illinois (4%); Mobile, Alabama (2%); Boca Raton, Florida (2%); and other locations (3%), and is expected to be completed by September 2026. Fiscal 2021 procurement, construction, and improvement (Coast Guard) funds in the amount of 485,129,919 (80%); fiscal 2020 procurement, construction, and improvement (Coast Guard) funds in the amount of $100,000,000 (17%); and fiscal 2019 procurement, construction, and improvement (Coast Guard) funds in the amount of $20,000,000 (3%) will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Thanks to Paul for bringing this to my attention.

“New Royal Canadian Navy Offshore Patrol Vessel Visits Norfolk After Circumnavigating North America” –USNI

HMCS Harry DeWolf in ice (6-8 second exposure)

We have talked about the Canadian Navy’s Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) before (more here). It is, in many ways an Offshore Patrol Vessel, that would seem right at home in the US Coast Guard. In fact, in addition to the six being built for the Royal Canadian Navy, two are being built for the Canadian Coast Guard.

I would not be surprised if the US Coast Guard opts to build something similar. This US Naval Institute News Service story provides a bit more insight into its operations and how it is being used.

The AOPS, like the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), is a VARD design. It is based on the Norwegian Coast Guard Cutter Svalbard, that was capable enough to reach the North Pole on 21 August 2019. Svalbard also completed a scientific mission for the US in the Beuford Sea in 2020, when CGC Healy had a fire in one of its main propulsion motors and was unable to recover data contained in buoys she had deployed earlier.

Most surprising for me were the comments the ship’s use of containers,

At the briefing to press in Norfolk, which was broadcast online, he noted that sea-shipping containers aboard Harry DeWolf, not usually carried on warships, can be used as laboratories for science and researchers studying changes in the Arctic.

Gleason added that at all times the ship will have two containers loaded for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to respond to emergencies when called upon.

Gleason said early on there was a key training scenario of responding in a mass casualty scenario. In it Harry De Wolf  worked with the U.S. and Canadian coast guards and naval vessels in treating and evacuating the injured aboard and taking them ashore.

On this mission to the North, Gleason said the containers had a real-time military mission. They “were used as underwater listening devices” for submarines. “Fortunately, we didn’t find any.”

I suspect the “underwater listening devices” for submarines was the Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar, TRAPS system, (more here).