UPDATE: Japan’s new icebreaker in detail | Polarjournal

UPDATE: The JAMSTEC has released more information about its planned icebreaker. In an informational video, the Agency for Marine Science and Technology has brought its still-unnamed research icebreaker to life. In the 6-minute video, the specifications and the equipment are presented on the one hand. On the other hand, the various branches of research that will be served by the new ship are also part of the presentation. According to JAMSTEC’s plans, the icebreaker will have a PC4 ice class. This will allow to break up to 1.2 meters thick annual ice effortlessly with 3 – 4 knots. A Doppler radar will also be installed on board in order to collect meteorological data, also on the formation of low-pressure systems directly in the Arctic. This makes the vessel unique as no other icebreaker has such radar, JAMSTEC explains in the video. In addition, a CTD measuring device for oceanographic measurements is to be on board. Another tool for sea ice research will be autonomous underwater drones, which are currently being developed at JAMSTEC. These small drones will be able to operate independently from the ship under the ice and provide data on sea ice and organisms. As a transmitter for the data, the drone should be able to interact with flying drones, and thus collect data from above the ice and below the ice and bring it back to the ship, another first. Cooperation with other Arctic nations is also important to JAMSTEC, which is why it offers to unlock the secrets of the Arctic Ocean in joint research cruises.

In the 6-minute video (language: English), Japan’s new icebreaker is introduced in more detail, as well as the research areas the ship will support. Video: JAMSTEC
The new ship’s equipment includes a helicopter, a drone and an autonomous underwater vehicle. (Photo: JAMSTEC)

The Japan Agency for Marine Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) will begin construction of a new large icebreaker in 2021 to conduct research in the North Pole region. To justify a new icebreaker, the agency says Arctic research is justified on scientific grounds alone. In addition, given the changing climate and also for geopolitical reasons, deployment in the Arctic would become more important as melting sea ice reveals new resources and affects global trade routes.

The Japanese icebreaker “Shirase” is integrated into the Japanese Antarctic Research Program. The ship has a displacement of 25,000 tons with dimensions of 138×28×5.9 m and a draft of 9.2 m. (Photo: Wikimedia)

The new research vessel, with a total price 255 million Euros, is expected to be as large as the current icebreaker “Shirase,” which Japan uses for research in the Antarctic. The “Shirase” can break ice up to 1.5 meters thick.

JAMSTEC hopes the new vessel will allow researchers to reach the North Pole and conduct winter season observations in the Arctic that have not been done before.

According to JAMSTEC’s plan, the new ship will be 128 meters long and 23 meters wide and weigh 13,000 tons. It will be able to navigate through 1.2 meters thick ice. The new ship’s equipment includes a helicopter, a drone and an autonomous underwater vehicle. A capacity of 99 people is anticipated and year-round outreach will be conducted.

“The change in the Arctic is not a problem of a distant region,” said Hiroyuki Enomoto, vice director of the National Institute of Polar Research. “Rather, it affects the entire globe, including Japan.” (Photo: sr.rois.ac)

The ministry set up a review committee to discuss its Arctic Ocean monitoring policy, which produced a report late last year. “It is appropriate to build and operate a vessel capable of breaking ice to make observations in sea ice, where there is very little meteorological and oceanographic data,” it said.

Hiroyuki Enomoto, vice director of Japan’s Polar Research Institute, said it is important to monitor water temperature and salinity under the sea ice, especially because they are related to heat and moisture released into the atmosphere and ocean water cycle.

“This makes observational missions necessary to make accurate predictions about global warming and sea ice melt,” he said. Observing the Arctic may also lead to a better understanding of typhoons and cold waves that would approach Japan and hit the island.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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