New Antarctic icebreaker Nuyina finally on its way to Australia

ABC News Online by Kate Ainsworth
Posted 1 Sep 2021


Extracted from ABC News On-line

1 Sept 2021

New Antarctic icebreaker Nuyina finally on its way to Australia

By Kate Ainsworth

Australia’s state-of-the-art Antarctic icebreaker, Nuyina, has begun its six-week journey across the planet to its new home port of Hobart.

The RSV (research and supply vessel) Nuyina departed Vlissingen in the Netherlands last night after completing final testing, and will arrive in Hobart in October after a 24,000-kilometre trip.

The federal government has invested $1.9 billion to cover the design, construction and operation of the 160-metre-long icebreaker for the next 30 years.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the vessel, which has been 10 years in the making and can withstand 14-metre seas and temperatures up to minus 30 degrees Celsius, will be “the backbone” of Australia’s Antarctic program.

“She will be a floating platform for our Antarctic research, marine research, climate research, our million-year ice core in Antarctica, and is critical to our mission and she will carry our expeditioners and our scientists to and from the continent,” Ms Ley said.

“The cost of the ship demonstrates the seriousness of our investment, $1.9 billion to cover its design and operation over 30 years.

“This is a ship that will establish our Antarctic legacy for generations to come.”

A worker removes a rope on a dock with an orange ship in the background.
The design and 30-year operation of the ship is projected to cost almost $2 billion.(Supplied: Peter Harmsen AAD


Ms Ley said Nuyina is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, and can support voyages of up to 90 days at a time.

A person wearing a hardhat peers out of a porthole in a large orange ship.
Nuyina is being described as a “game-changer”.(Supplied: Peter Harmsen AAD

“Being able to support voyages of 90 days at a time does make a difference because the window of travel between the port of Hobart and the destination in Antarctica is carefully planned because of weather and it’s good to have that buffer zone,” she said.

“When you look at a more advanced vessel, you get advances in technology that allow the scientific program to continue unimpeded, you get better forecasting, you get better ability to withstand different sea states and weather conditions.

“This vessel will be the most advanced of its kind to be deployed in the Southern Ocean.

“It’s a really exciting moment for Tasmania, for Hobart, for our Antarctic expeditioners and also for the whole of Australia.”

A scientific laboratory on a ship.
Nuyina has improved facilities for scientific research.(Supplied: Peter Harmsen AAD


Nuyina began sea trials late last year.

Delivery voyage leader Vic Doust said he was looking forward to bringing the “game-changer” ship to its new home.

“It’s not just another ship, it’s a game changer, particularly for research. There’s none other in the world.”

The Aurora Australis ship parked on ice with a penguin in the foreground
The old ship Aurora Australis was sometimes affectionately called the Orange Roughy.(Supplied: Sarah Laverick

Bigger, better, pricier

Nuyina replaces the Aurora Australis, which completed its last expedition for the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) last year before leaving its Hobart port bound for Singapore.

The Romanian-built Nuyina, named by schoolchildren as part of a competition, was expected to arrive in Hobart last year, but impacts of the COVID pandemic caused delays in its delivery to the AAD.

The AAD had been using the MPV Everest as an interim icebreaker vessel, but it has been out of action since an engine fire broke out on board during a resupply mission in April.

Illustration showing size and capability difference between Nuyina and Aurora Australis ships.
Illustration showing size and capability difference between Nuyina and Aurora Australis ships.(Supplied: AAD/Rob Bryson

The impending arrival of Nuyina also raised concerns about the suitability of the Hobart Port to house the icebreaker, after upgrade works were declared a priority initiative by Infrastructure Australia earlier this year.

The AAD was adamant that the ship “can be accommodated and operated at the Port of Hobart using current infrastructure”, with TasPorts saying work would be completed prior to the Nuyina’s arrival.

Once it arrives in Hobart in October, Nuyina will undergo testing, commissioning and certification, including ice trials in Antarctica before it departs on its first scientific mission to the continent.

A large orange ship with name Nuyina Hobart and small black tug boat.
Nuyina will be based in Hobart.(Supplied: Peter Harmsen AAD