Launch of Chile’s first self-built icebreaker | Polarjournal
The Almirante Viel is the first icebreaker built in Latin America. It is to be used in research, search and rescue operations, and to supply Antarctic stations. Photo: Screenshot, Armada de Chile

The first icebreaker built in Latin America was launched yesterday at the ASMAR shipyard in Talcahuano, Chile, after five years of construction, a great Christmas present for the Armada de Chile – the Chilean Navy. The Almirante Viel replaces the icebreaker of almost the same name, which was in service from 1995 to 2019.

The construction of the icebreaker, which is a prestige project for Chile, has been closely watched by the government. At 111 meters long, it is the largest ship ever built in Chile and the most modern in South America. It will be used for logistics, search and rescue operations, scientific research, and supplying Chilean bases and scientific stations in Antarctica.

The ceremony was attended by many high-ranking government officials and military personnel, including Defense Minister Maya Fernández (center). Photo: Screenshot, Armada de Chile

After 3.3 million hours of work, the new icebreaker was successfully launched during a ceremony yesterday, Thursday, which could be watched live on YouTube. High-ranking government officials and military personnel, such as Defense Minister Maya Fernández Allende and Senate President Álvaro Elizalde, also attended.

Originally, the Almirante Viel was supposed to be on its way to Antarctica as early as next year, but the pandemic has delayed its completion. The installation of the various systems, laboratories, sampling equipment, sensors, etc. will now take some time, so that the first test runs cannot be carried out until December 2023. In the 2024/25 season, she is scheduled to set off on her first deployment to Antarctica.

The entire ceremony was broadcast live on YouTube. The launch can be seen in the last ten minutes of the video. Video: Armada de Chile

The ship has a range of 14,000 nautical miles, can operate autonomously for 60 days, and can accommodate 86 crew members and 34 scientists. The planned scientific equipment includes chemical as well as microbiological and macrobiological laboratories, various sampling devices and acoustic sensors. Two helicopters will support navigation, supply of stations and research.

Julia Hager, PolarJournal

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