Icebreaker “RSV Nuyina” likely to be out of action for some time | Polarjournal
The Australian icebreaker “RSV Nuyina” is expected to be out of service for a longer period of time due to damage to its propulsion shafts. (Photo: AAD)

The Australian icebreaker and supply vessel, the “RSV Nuyina”, successfully made its first two Antarctic voyages earlier this year, supplying stations and testing scientific systems. Now, unexpected damage to the propulsion shafts was discovered during maintenance work. Delays in receiving spare parts are likely to keep the ship out of service for longer. The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) has already adjusted its planning to supply its Antarctic stations for the 2022-23 season. The “RSV Nuyina” is currently in Singapore for scheduled maintenance. The ship arrived in Singapore in April and was scheduled to arrive back in Hobart in October.

The “RSV Nuyina” for maintenance work in Singapore. (Photo: SembCorp Marine Admiralty Yard)

The commissioning and testing phase of the “RSV Nuyina” will last for at least the first two years of its service, during which time the ship will be under warranty by the Dutch shipbuilder Damen.

The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) and vessel operator Serco resolved issues and made repairs during the warranty period as part of the normal commissioning process. AAD Director Kim Ellis said the work included improvements to the hydraulic control system within the propulsion system.

“While work on the clutches has progressed well, an unexpected problem was discovered with the large couplings that connect the propulsion shafts to the clutches,” Kim Ellis said. “After initial investigation and testing, the manufacturer has determined that shaft couplings need to be replaced. Delivery times for replacement couplings are long, due in large part to material shortages and supply chain issues.”

The resulting delay of several months means that the icebreaker “RSV Nuyina” will likely not be available for resupply and science operations during the upcoming 2022-23 Antarctic season.

Propulsion system of the “RSV Nuyina”: AFC = friction clutch, shaft clutch marked red. (Graphic: Damen Werft)

Two ships to help out

Kim Ellis said two other vessels, the icebreaker “Aiviq” and the ice-strengthened cargo ship “Happy Dynamic,” have been secured for the coming season to transport critical cargo and bring expedition members home.

“Exchange dates for the 90 expedition members currently living and working at the four Australian research stations in Antarctica and on Macquarie Island will remain largely the same,” Ellis said.

The “Aiviq” was chartered last season to refuel and resupply fuel depots at research stations, and it will remain based in Hobart for the upcoming season. (Photo: AAD)

“Planning for disruptions and the unexpected is an important part of the Australian Antarctic program. We had always planned for an emergency during the commissioning and warranty phase of the “RSV Nuyina”.”

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

Website: Australian Antarctic Division (AAD)

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