Antarctic icebreaker afloat

The bow of the Nuyina towering over a gate between the dry and wet docks.
The Nuyina prior to the removal of the gate between the dry and wet docks. (Photo: Damen)
Buoyancy bags around the keels at the ship's stern.The RSV Nuyina floating in the dry dock with strops attached to buoyancy bags running down the ship's sides.

Australia’s new Antarctic icebreaker, RSV Nuyina, is now floating, after 50 Olympic swimming pools of water were pumped into the docks, where the ship is being built, in September.

It took two days to pump enough water from the nearby river into the dry dock, raising the water level six metres above the dock floor and floating the 10,751 tonne ship about 30 centimetres off the ground.

Australian Antarctic Division Icebreaker Project Manager, Mr Nick Browne, said it was a precision operation to then manoeuvre the ship about 250 metres into the adjacent wet dock.

“We had 34 buoyancy bags tethered in strategic places around the ship to ensure the bow and stern were level for floating out,” Mr Browne said.

“Then we used a series of controlled lines to pull the ship into position in the wet dock. The ship is 25.6 metres wide and the dry dock is 35 metres wide, so we had less than five metres either side.

“There’s about 10 metres of water in the wet dock, which will be enough to support the 16,000 tonne weight of the ship when it’s completed.”

At the time of the floating, construction on the ship had reached deck level four (the science deck), and the engines, generators, shaft lines, propellers and rudders were all in place (see Nuyina's construction propels ahead).

When complete, the ship will rise to 10 decks at navigation bridge level, measuring 50.2 metres from the keel to the top of the weather radar on the main mast.

“After six years of planning and more than two years of construction, it was a thrill to see the ship finally floating in the water,” Mr Browne said.

“We’ll see the Nuyina rapidly taking shape over the next few months; it won’t be long now before she’ll be sailing into Hobart in 2020.”

Wendy Pyper
Australian Antarctic Division

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