A new era of Australian Antarctic scientific endeavour and leadership

Australia’s state of the art icebreaker unveiled

Video transcript

It's a pretty exciting time. At the moment, we're in a process where we're building a half a billion dollar ship that will be the foundation stone for Australia's activities in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean for the next 30 years.

So it's a best of breed maritime logistics and scientific research platform. That'll be based out of Hobart. So we'll be able to carry 116 expeditioners. It will be around the 160-meter mark in length. It will weigh in excess of 15,000 tons. It'll have a great big helideck on it. It'll have two 55-tonne cranes.

For the first time, we'll be looking at a wet well sampling area, which will allow us to capture and analyse sea creatures as we move through the Southern Ocean. We will have hydrographic scanners and echo sounders that will allow us to map the ocean floor down to a depth of around four kilometres. We will have upper atmospheric scanning in weather radars.

We have to constantly think about how we're going to use that ship for the next 30 years. You have to be able to be flexible and adaptable and be the once in a generation ship that we need to service the program. 

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A graphic of the new icebreaker in the ice.
The RSV Nuyina will provide a state-of-the-art platform to conduct multidisciplinary science in sea ice and open water, and deliver personnel, cargo and equipment to and from Australia’s Antarctic and subantarctic stations. (Image: Damen/DMS Maritime/Knud E Hansen A/S)
A comparison of the lengths of the new icebreaker and Aurora Australis.A graphic of the new icebreaker in the sea ice.A graphic of the stern of the new icebreaker.

The Australian Government is delivering a new world-leading Antarctic icebreaker to replace the ageing Aurora Australis. This once in a generation commitment is the centrepiece of the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan launched on 27 April 2016. The $1.9 billion package will cover the design, build and 30 year operational and maintenance lifespan of the icebreaker, representing the single biggest investment in the history of Australia’s Antarctic program.

The icebreaker, RSV Nuyina, is the main lifeline to Australia’s Antarctic and sub-Antarctic research stations and the central platform of our Antarctic and Southern Ocean scientific research.

An icebreaker enables us to cross thousands of kilometres of the world’s stormiest seas, navigate through Antarctica’s formidable sea ice barrier, and live and work for extended periods on the coldest, driest and windiest continent on earth – some of the harshest conditions in the world.

The Australian Government has signed a contract for Nuyina with the Australian company DMS Maritime Pty Ltd. They are responsible for both the overall design and build of the ship, and the operation and maintenance of the ship over its expected 30 year life. The custom-built ship is due to arrive in Australia, to its home port of Hobart, in mid-2020.

This next-generation successor to the Aurora Australis will provide a step-change in Australia’s Antarctic capabilities and is uniquely tailored to meet the Australian Antarctic program’s needs. It will have:

  • greater icebreaking and cargo capacity
  • increased endurance and operational flexibility
  • a high standard of environmental performance, and
  • state-of-the-art research, rescue and resupply capabilities.

The Nuyina will be Australia’s only icebreaking scientific research platform. Scientific equipment will include a moon pool, drop-keel, multi-beam bathymetric and scientific echo sounders, fisheries sonar systems, hydrophones and underwater cameras to support a wide range of scientific research, and it will offer scientists unprecedented and extended access to the Southern Ocean and Antarctica (see scientific capabilities).

The Nuyina will sustain the next generation of Australian Antarctic operations and will create greater opportunities for Tasmanian businesses to provide a range of support services over the expected 30 year life of the vessel.

Once in a generation investment

A new icebreaker for Australia’s Antarctic program represents a once in a generation investment by the Australian Government. It is a testament to the Government’s strong commitment to our Antarctic program and a new era of Australian Antarctic leadership and scientific endeavour.