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Australian government signs contract for new Antarctic icebreaker

A graphic of the new Australian icebreaker Photo: Damen/DMS Maritime/Knud E Hansen A/S

The Australian Government has signed a contract for Australia’s new icebreaker, with the custom built ship due to arrive in Australia in mid-2020.

The total investment is over $1.912 billion, with $529 million being invested in the capital cost of the icebreaker, and $1.38 billion to be spent on operations and maintenance over the new ship's 30-year lifespan.


Replacement for Aurora Australis

The Aurora Australis, which the new icebreaker will replace. Credit: Wendy Pyper/Australian Antarctic Division

The new icebreaker, which was commissioned to replace the Australian Antarctic Division’s current icebreaker, the aging Aurora Australis, will help the Australian Government’s objective to further expand Tasmania’s role as the gateway to Antarctica, and represents the single biggest investment in the history of the Australian Antarctic programme.

The Australian Government believes that the commissioning of the new icebreaker is essential for the resupply of Australia’s Antarctic research stations and to lead a world-class science programme.


State-of-the-art research facilities

The state-of-the-art icebreaker will be faster, larger and stronger than the Aurora Australis and also offers increased endurance and icebreaking capability.

Features on the new ship include a modern platform for marine science research in both sea ice and open water, a moon pool for launching and retrieving remotely operated underwater vehicles, a multi-beam bathymetric echo sounder to enable seafloor mapping, and portable science laboratories.

Australian company DMS Maritime Pty Ltd will project manage the overall ship design and building process, and will then operate and maintain the icebreaker from its home port of Hobart.


Naming competition

The Australian Government has also announced that it will be holding a nation-wide competition to name the new vessel. Australian environment minister Greg Hunt is optimistic that the competition will produce a better name than Boaty McBoatFace, which was a runaway winner in a recent competition in the UK to name a polar research vessel for the Natural Environment Research Council.


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