Australian icebreaker on first exciting voyage | Polarjournal
The RSV Nuyina is a 160-metre-long and almost 26-metre-wide icebreaker that will have around 25,500 tonnes of displacement. At one time, 117 people and 32 crew will be accommodated on board, as well as 4 helicopters and up to 96 containers. From 2021, the ship will be serviced from Hobart. Photo: Viorel Vlase / Serco

Australia wants to set a milestone for icebreakers with its new Antarctic flagship, the RSV Nuyina. The ship is to become nothing less than one of the most modern, best equipped icebreakers for Antarctica. In Romania, in the Damen Shipyard, which has already built some polar-compatible ships, the ship was laid down in 2017. But the COVID pandemic put a break on the roadmap for completion, and for months the Nuyina rested in Galati. Now the ship has been ready to make its first voyage to the Netherlands with support. But first the ship also made her first land contact.

“The ship made contact with the riverbank while being steered away from an uncharted pontoon.”

Rob Bryson, Infrastructure Manager Australian Antarctic Division

With the help of a 50-metre-long tugboat, the RSV Nuyina was to be brought down the Danube into the Black Sea. The icebreaker’s departure was also without incident. But during the voyage the following day, the ship ran off to the shore after a massive slingshot of the tugboat and remained lying across the river. Rob Bryson, head of infrastructure at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), said: ‘The ship made contact with the riverbank while being steered away from an uncharted pontoon. Visual inspections show only superficial damage and after an hour delay, Nuyina continued to the Black Sea and then to the city of Constanta, where divers are now undertaking a thorough examination of the hull.”

The video, which was taken on the tug, shows the icebreaker first having to dodge a pontoon on one side of the river and then hitting the shore on the other side and then stretching across the river. The icebreaker ran without engines and was therefore unmaneuvrable. Video: Neintrebi Romania

Because the Nuyina does not yet have a proper propulsion system, no navigation and electrical systems, the ship has not yet been able to undertake any test voyages and therefore has not been able to travel from Galati, Romania, to Vlissingen, the Netherlands, on its own. A tugboat and up to three smaller tugs will drag and push the icebreaker over the 6,800-kilometre-long route. The ship is dragged from the Black Sea through the Bosporus, through the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar to the North Sea and to Vlissingen. The convoy is expected to be on the road for about a month. The AAD sees the accident calmly. “This is a 16,300 tonne icebreaker, with a reinforced steel hull designed to crack through sea-ice, so while this is the ship’s first scrape, it certainly won’t be its last,” says Rob Bryson.

The first journey of the Australian “Souther Light”, as its name translates, is already an adventure. Because the ship has to pass through the Bosporus, through the Greek archipelago and the Strait of Gibraltar to the Netherlands. Map: AAD

The icebreaker must make the journey so that the remaining systems and superstructures can be installed in Vlissingen and all necessary test runs can be carried out. Only then can the ship make its next voyage, the journey home to Tasmania. The ship is expected to arrive there in the middle of next year. In order to ensure the supply of Antarctic stations in the coming season, the AAD has chartered a Dutch ship, which is currently being equipped to meet the requirements.

The video shows how the ship, which was launched two years ago, started its first voyage in the Romanian sunset. It is scheduled to arrive in Vlissingen at the end of August. Video: AAD

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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