Captains Announced for Australia's New Antarctic Research Vessel
Captain Scott Laughlin and Captain Paul Clarke will lead the alternating crews operating Australia’s new icebreaker, the RSV Nuyina.
Replacing the Aurora Australis, the RSV Nuyina will be faster, larger, stronger and offer increased endurance. The vessel will supply Antarctic research stations with cargo, equipment and personnel, and as a research ship, she will also have extensive laboratory facilities on board.
The 160-meter long, 24,000-ton vessel is expected to accommodate 34 crew and up to 116 scientific personnel, and has the ability to embark up to four helicopters, two landing craft and a dedicated science tender.
The icebreaker was designed by KNUD E. HANSEN and is being constructed at the Damen shipyard in Galati, Romania and is expected to be commissioned in 2020. Serco Australia is managing the ship design and build process, and will then operate and maintain the icebreaker from its home port of Hobart, Tasmania. Laughlin has worked with Serco for the past five years; initially as part of the team who compiled the successful bid to design, build, operate and maintain the Nuyina, and then more recently as a member of the engineering team managing the design and build phase.
Laughlin has completed more than 50 voyages to Antarctica. As Captain of Australia’s current icebreaker, Aurora Australis, for over 10 years, he is familiar with the cold and challenging conditions of the Southern Ocean. Laughlin’s focus on safe vessel management and operation has gained him industry recognition. In 2014 he was awarded the Peter Morris Medal by the Australian Maritime College for improving international maritime safety and personnel standards. In 2013 he received the Australian Antarctic Medal for outstanding service to the Australian Antarctic Program; and in 2006, he gained a Seacare Award for Best Individual Contribution to Safety.
From Tasmania, Laughlin has lived and worked in Hobart his whole life and is an alumnus from the University of Tasmania’s Australian Maritime College.
“The Southern Ocean is a captivating place to work,” he said. “There is nothing more satisfying than successfully transiting through the roaring 40’s, howling 50’s and screaming 60’s, sighting the sea ice edge before crossing hundreds of kilometers through the ice to conduct science operations or to resupply one of the Australian Antarctic stations.”
Clarke also has extensive experience in the Antarctic, having spent 11 years working for the British Antarctic Survey and undertaking more than 20 voyages to Antarctica. He was born and raised in the Falkland Islands and began working for the British Antarctic Survey as a deck hand in 1994. He has always aspired to become the Master of an Antarctic research vessel.
Clarke spent the last decade sailing as a Master for shipping company Solstad/Farstad in the oil and gas industry around Australia and many other parts of the world. He brings with him valuable experience sailing in the ice and knowledge from the British Antarctic Survey that will complement and enhance the operation of the Nuyina.
“This is an amazing opportunity with Serco and the Australian Antarctic Program to deliver world class support for their polar and science operations,” he said. “I very much enjoy the type of ice navigation challenges, research and survey work that will be undertaken on the Nuyina. It’s a career goal, this type of job. There are not very many of these vessels worldwide, there’s only one in Australia,” he said.