Japan Marine United (JMU) has begun construction of a Polar Class 4 (PC4) research vessel for the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC).
The 33.5 billion yen (USD295m) order for the dual-fuel vessel was received in August 2021, with completion scheduled after April 2026. The 13,000gt ship will be about 128m long and 23m wide, with a capacity to support a complement of up to 99 personnel for missions of 40 to 50 days duration.
The vessel is intended to introduce a year-round icebreaking capability into JAMSTEC’s research fleet: the agency’s current Arctic research vessel, Mirai, is limited to operating during the summer months, although JAMSTEC has been able to draw upon a modified icebreaker, Shirase, upon occasion.
The vessel will be equipped with a number of autonomous underwater vehicles and remote operated vehicles, which will be able to interact with airborne drones carried on the vessel to extend the range of the vessel. The vessel will also be equipped with a meteorological radar array in order to improve data collection from the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The project is intended to improve understanding of environmental changes in Arctic regions.
JMU noted that its experience of building advanced research vessels and ice class vessels contributed to the award of the contract. JMU operates a specialised sea ice test tank at its Technical Research Institute.