Nuyina will considerably enhance and expand Australia’s Antarctic research and logistic capacities (credit: Serco). Nuyina will considerably enhance and expand Australia’s Antarctic research and logistic capacities (credit: Serco).

Representing the largest-ever single investment in Australia’s Antarctic Program, the 160-metre icebreaking research and logistic support vessel Nuyina is expected to be ready for the 2020/21 southern hemisphere summer season, writes David Tinsley.

Such is the complexity of the state-of-the-art newbuild that delivery from Damen’s Galati yard in Romania has been pushed back by several months. However, the rescheduled arrival at Hobart, Tasmania, in October 2020 would still ensure the vessel’s availability for the start of the Antarctic shipping season.

Nuyina will become the main lifeline for Australia’s Antarctic and sub-Antarctic research stations and the central platform of the country’s Antarctic and Southern Ocean scientific research activities. The new ship offers increased capabilities, capacity and endurance relative to the time-served existing vessel, P&O Maritime’s 95-metre Aurora Australis, with enhanced seakeeping and icebreaking performance.

Taking into account not only the design and construction of the vessel, but also her anticipated 30-year operational and maintenance lifespan, the Australian government’s financial commitment to the project is reckoned to be close to A$2 billion.

Nuyina is pivotal to the aim of the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) to advance the country’s scientific, strategic, environmental and economic interests in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica, focused on stewardship, climate research and the study of both marine and terrestrial eco-systems. Australia has three Antarctic research stations and a sub-Antarctic station on Macquarie Island, and the new ship will deploy helicopters, landing barges and amphibious trucks to support resupply work and personnel transfers on the ice.

Accommodation will be provided for up to 32 marine crew and a maximum of 116 scientific personnel, using 500m2 of laboratory space and office facilities.

Ordered from Damen Shipyards Group, which assigned complete construction and outfitting to its Galati yard on the Danube, Nuyina will be operated by DMS Maritime, a wholly-owned Australian subsidiary of prime contractor Serco. Copenhagen-based Knud E. Hansen carried out concept and tender design work, with design development, engineering and project management undertaken by Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding in the Netherlands. UK consultancy BMT Group has also contributed engineering know-how to the project.

The specification called for a level of powering, manoeuvrability and robustness that will allow icebreaking operations in sea ice of 1.65m thickness at a speed of three knots. Ice ridges, where crushed ice is piled up and frozen after large ice sheets have collided, have to be negotiated by ramming, and vessel freeing in the most adverse circumstances has to be accomplished by what is known as star manoeuvring. Maximum open-water speed will be around 16 knots.

The chosen diesel-hybrid propulsion system comprises two drive trains, whereby diesel direct drive is supplemented and augmented by power take-in (PTI) electric hybrid systems using shaft generators energised by auxiliary gensets. When most force is needed, during icebreaking and ramming, the plant is set in combined diesel-direct and PTI mode at maximum power. A maximum shaft speed will then be combined with minimum propeller pitch. In silent mode, when conducting science research, the main diesels and gearboxes will be de-coupled, and the diesel-electric solution will be activated.

The two MAN 16V32/44CR main engines provide a power concentration of 19,200kW, while the two PTI electric motors can deliver 7,400kW, rendering 26,600kW of available propulsion power, delivered through twin controllable pitch propellers. Three tunnel thrusters are fitted in the bow as well as in the stern skegs to assist the vessel in adverse sea and wind conditions.

Last November, as contingency planning in the event of any further delays in the shipbuilding production schedule, the AAD put out a tender for suitable shipping capacity to cover the 2020/21 southern polar season. This stipulated a Polar Code-compliant vessel, capable of fulfilling Antarctic research station resupply duties between October 2020 and March 2021.


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