Damen has cut first steel on Australia's Antarctic supply research vessel at its yard in Galati, Romania.
Damen is constructing the vessel for Serco Defence, a wholly owned subsidiary of Serco Australia who, in turn, signed a contract with the Australian Government last year for the delivery, operation and maintenance of the vessel.
The 160-meter (525-foot) vessel will perform numerous tasks for the Australian Antarctic Division. The new vessel is a multi-mission ship designed to sustain Australia's 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.
To fulfil these diverse roles, the vessel boasts considerable cargo capacity: up to 96 TEUs below decks and 14 TEUs and six 10-foot containers on the aft deck, as well as more above the helicopter hanger and in front of the helideck.
This represents a substantial increase in container carrying capacity from the Australian Antarctic Division's current vessel, the Aurora Australis, which can transport a total 19 containers. In practical terms, this means that the vessel will be able to resupply two stations in one voyage.
In addition to supplying Australia’s three permanent research stations on the Antarctic continent as well as its research station on the sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island with cargo, equipment and personnel, the vessel will be able to carry out comprehensive scientific research activities. To this end, she will be equipped with a 500 square meter onboard laboratory that will serve as workspace for up to 116 scientific staff. She will feature a 13-meter (43-foot) deep wide moon pool for deployment of conductivity, temperature, acoustic and depth measurements.
The vessel design also incorporates a ‘wet well’ sampling space, a scientifically pioneering installation that consists of a watertight room below the water line that can be used for biological sampling. Further activities such as seismic mapping, AUV operation and net deployment can be performed on the sizeable aft deck.
A key part of the vessel design lies in the fact that the vessel is expected to be in service for 30 years. The scientific spaces were modularized and containerized as much as possible to enable the vessel to adapt to changing research demands in the future.
Delivery is expected in 2020.
Last year, the Australian government launched it Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan. The government is providing A$255 million ($170 million) in funding over the next ten years to enhance Australia’s Antarctic logistics and science capabilities. This includes $55 million for infrastructure and $200 million for sustainable ongoing funding for the Australian Antarctic program. The new icebreaker is a key component of the Action Plan.