New icebreaker is a strong boost for Antarctic research and good news for the Tasmanian economy

Environment Minister Greg Hunt surrounded by media in front of the orange icebreaker ship Aurora Australis on Hobart's waterfront.
Minister for the Environment, The Hon. Greg Hunt, MP, speaks to the media about the new Australian icebreaker which will replace the Aurora Australis. (Photo: Nisha Harris)

19th May 2014

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP

Minister for the Environment

As part of a significant Budget commitment to Antarctic research and operations, the Federal Government is proceeding with the procurement of a new icebreaker to be crewed and based in Hobart.

“This is yet another sign of the Abbott Government’s strong determination to boost jobs and growth in Tasmania,” said Minister Hunt.

“The new icebreaker will help to further expand Tasmania’s role as the gateway to the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.

“Australia’s new Antarctic icebreaker will be able to conduct deep-sea Southern Ocean research and sea-ice experiments, as well as deliver critical fuel and cargo to Australian stations.

“Modern, sophisticated research and transport systems are critical to Australia continuing to lead a world-class Antarctic programme into the future and to maintain our position as a leading Antarctic nation.”

Minister Hunt visited Tasmania today to discuss the Government’s commitment to a new icebreaker, and was joined by Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman in Hobart.

“I welcome the Federal Government’s commitment to replacing the ice-breaker Aurora Australis and reaffirm Tasmania’s global reputation as the gateway to the Antarctic,” said Premier Hodgman.

“It’s a significant commitment that ensures Hobart remains the home of the research vessel across its 30 year lifespan, while creating jobs and growth in Tasmania.”

A key criteria for the new vessel is an icebreaking capability of 1.65m of ice whilst maintaining a speed of three knots.

“This is a significant capability enhancement over the Aurora Australis, which is only rated to 1.23m icebreaking capacity. The Aurora Australia and has struggled to break through the thick ice in recent seasons,” said Minister Hunt.

“The new ship will have a cargo capacity of at least 1200 tonnes, an increase of around 50% on our current capacity.”

Funding for a new icebreaker is long overdue and was neglected by the previous Labor government. Labor left a black hole in the Environment budget to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. The Abbott Government fixing this mess and is committed to an icebreaker for Antarctic research.

The new icebreaker is expected to be ready for operation in late 2019.

The Federal Budget also commits to expanding Hobart International Airport to help build the city as the global gateway to East Antarctica.

The Government has also delivered on its election commitment of $24 million over three years from 2014-15 for a new Antarctic Gateway Partnership between the Australian Antarctic Division, the University of Tasmania and the CSIRO.

To support the logistical services critical to our Antarctic programme, the Budget also contains on-going funding of $45.3 over four years to maintain the Airlink service between Hobart and the Wilkins ice runway near Casey station and a further $13.4 million over four years for fuel and other logistical support.

The Budget also commits $9.4 million for 2014-15 to ensure the continued operation of Australia’s three Antarctic and one sub-Antarctic station maintaining Australia’s presence in the frozen continent.

A longer term strategy for Australia’s presence in Antarctica is currently being developed through the Government’s 20 Year Strategic Plan for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research to be released later in the year.

This plan will ensure Tasmania’s position is enshrined at the centre of Antarctic research and services to the region.

Media contact: John O’Doherty 0402 047 852

This page was last modified on 19 May 2014.