Contract signed for Australia's new icebreaker

A graphic of the new icebreaker in the ice
A graphic of the new icebreaker in the ice (Image: Damen/DMS Maritime/Knud E Hansen A/S)
Ministers sitting at the table signing a document.

28th April 2016

The Australian Government has signed a contract for Australia’s new icebreaker, amounting to a $1.912 billion investment, with the custom built ship due to arrive in Australia in mid-2020.

The contract signing follows yesterday’s release of the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan by the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt MP.

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 its 30 year lifespan.

More than $1.1 billion (around 80 per cent) of the operations and maintenance spend will be in Australia, with the majority expected in Tasmania.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop MP and Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt MP visited Hobart on 28 April 2016 and provided an overview of the new icebreaker as part of the contract signing.
[Video]

Contract signed for Australia's new icebreaker

Video transcript

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop:

Today represents another chapter in the Turnbull government’s plan to drive a stronger economy through an embrace of innovation and scientific research and endeavour. Yesterday, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the Environment Minister Greg Hunt and I announced Australia’s Antarctic Strategy and our 20 Year Action Plan, which establishes Australia as a leader in the Antarctic.

The Treaty regime that governs the Antarctic is undoubtedly in Australia’s national interest, and we support that Treaty’s regime. And it’s interesting to note that when the Antarctic Treaty was first signed in 1959 there were 12 signatory countries; today there are 53.

We are a leader in the Antarctic because it’s in our interests for the Antarctic to remain a natural reserve. There is no mining, no militarisation, it is for peaceful purposes, for scientific research and endeavour.

The centrepiece of our 20 Year Action Plan will be the commissioning of a new icebreaker, a state of the art icebreaker for Australia to continue our groundbreaking Antarctic research. The exciting news is that the icebreaker will be housed here in Hobart, this will be its home port, and that will mean a significant amount of work for local businesses, it will mean more local jobs for the maintenance, the supply and the operations to the Antarctic more generally.

We’re very excited to be working with partners DMS Maritime and other partners for the commissioning of this new icebreaker, a far cry from Sir Douglas Mawson’s first effort in 1911. And this represents a new era in Australia’s leadership in the Antarctic, and in terms of the scientific research, development and endeavour that we will be able to undertake.

And so I’m very pleased as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and responsible for our Treaty obligations to be part of this signing ceremony today which really does mean an enormous amount for Hobart and for Tasmania, reconfirming its status as the premier gateway to East Antarctica.

Now can I hand over to my friend the Environment Minister.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt:

Thanks very much to Julie, and in particular for that overview of Australia’s role in the Antarctic Treaty system and as a global gateway to the Antarctic. To Julie; to Matt Groom, the Tasmanian Minister for State Growth and Environment; to our Senators, Senate President Stephen Parry and Senator David Bushby who together really have been absolute drivers of the Antarctic vision for Tasmania; to our Senate Candidate Jonno Duniam, and to our magnificent Tasmanian lower house members Brett Whiteley and Eric Hutchinson and our candidates Amanda-Sue Markham and Marcus Allen.

And of course to everybody involved with this project, it’s an absolute thrill to be here at the signing ceremony for Australia’s new Antarctic icebreaker. The vision, as Julie has said, is to be a global gateway for the Antarctic, indeed to be the global gateway and that’s about Tasmania, that’s about Hobart, but it’s also about the great scientific vision.

Yesterday we announced $255 million for the over land transport, the capacity to search for the great million year ice core, to be engaged in the search for the holy grail of Antarctic research, and all of the funding which goes with it.

Today we are announcing a $1.91 billion lifetime contract for the new Antarctic icebreaker so $1.91 billion for a new Antarctic icebreaker. That is broken up in terms of $530 million for the construction and testing and delivery of the icebreaker and then about $1.38 billion for the lifetime operation, maintenance and development of the icebreaker of which $1.1 billion we expect will be spent here in Tasmania.

So that is a $1.1 billion benefit directly to Tasmania, one of the largest Commonwealth expenditures ever, in Tasmania, and it’s for science, it’s for climate research, it’s for environmental research and it’s for education and health all in Tasmania.

Tasmania has the capacity to become the world’s global gateway but the world’s premier southern hemisphere Antarctic research centre, and that’s about building on our magnificent institutions here.

So that’s a huge contract. But what’s the ship about? The ship is the Millennium Falcon of the Antarctic icebreaking world. Faster, stronger and more capable. And so its length is 156 metres. Its speed is 16 knots. Its capacity is 1.65 metres of ice depth which can be broken when travelling at three knots. And so this is an extraordinary ability to transport people and fuel and logistics to our supply bases so it makes them stronger, but it’s also a scientific platform in itself.

It has bathymetric capacity to map the sea bed, to imagine what could be the case, to discover things which were never known and which may never have been imagined. And so what a vision of the future in scientific research and innovation, and it’s real, and it’s happening here in Tasmania.

It has a scientific platform, so it will be doing in sea trials, it will be doing work on krill, work on the Southern Ocean system, work on the impacts of climate change on our great oceanic systems, so this is the future, here now in Tasmania.

And so with that I am delighted to say that the Commonwealth will today be signing the agreement with DMS Maritime and to be built by Damen shipyards. It’s a great achievement, and to our negotiators, Peter Block, and David Sumner and team, a marathon effort, great outcome, we thank you, we congratulate you and we say to Tasmania, you are now the future. Thank you.

[end transcript]