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Maiden Voyage of Australia’s Mega-Icebreaker Delayed by Software Fault

Courtesy Richard Jupe / Australian Antarctic Division

Dec 20, 2021 12:50 AM by

The Maritime Executive

Australia’s brand new icebreaker RSV Nuyina has experienced a systems fault for the second time in the span of two months, potentially delaying her planned maiden expedition to Antarctica.

RSV Nuyina was scheduled to depart from her homeport of Hobart on Monday for her maiden voyage to Antarctica, but the Australian government announced that the voyage has been pushed to later this week after issues were detected in the vessel’s alarm and monitoring system software.

Nuyina was due to sail tonight (Monday) but final testing of the alarm and monitoring system software by ship operators Serco found issues which need to be resolved before departure,” said a statement by the Australian Antarctic Program (AAP). 

Expeditioners who have been in isolation in Hobart for two weeks will board the vessel tomorrow to undertake training and induction before heading south to Antarctica for a research voyage.

The newly built vessel also suffered an electrical fault during her voyage  journey to her homeport of Hobart in October. Shortly before arrival, the crew were alerted to a fault in the electrical system that powers the propulsion motor for the port shaft line. After an assessment, they determined that they could safely use the starboard propulsion system to complete the voyage. Repairs were completed at Hobart under warranty.  

The $500 million RSV Nuyina was built by Dutch shipbuilder Damen. The 525-foot icebreaker will cost the Australian government $1.4 billion to build, maintain and operate over the next 30 years. Delivery was delayed by about one year due to COVID-19 disruptions. 

On Saturday, Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other senior government officials visitied RSV Nuyina for a send-off before her maiden voyage. “From aboard the RSV Nuyina, scientists will be able to research uncharted areas of the deep ocean and study the upper reaches of the atmosphere,” said Morrison. “Already she is drawing the attention of the international scientific community and that means good news for jobs in Tasmania as the gateway to Antarctica.”

RSV Nuyina will depart with 67 expeditioners and crew. Part of her five week expedition will include refueling Australia’s Casey research station, transporting helicopters to the Davis research station and undertaking activities for marine science. She will be supported this summer by two other chartered vessels, the ice-strengthened heavy cargo ship Happy Dragon and a smaller American commercial icebreaker, the Aiviq.

As the Southern Hemisphere’s summer season begins, multiple nations have dispatched their icebreakers to Antarctic research stations. The UK’s RRS Sir David Attenborough docked in Antarctica on December 17 on her maiden voyage. On Monday, Japanese icebreaker Shirase reached Showa Station, Japan’s Antarctic research facility. And the venerable U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star is under way south, making her 25th voyage to McMurdo Station.