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HMS Endurance 3 (Ex- Polar Circle) Ice Patrol Ship [IPS]

"Endurance" has a dual function, not only as a supply vessel to the Antarctic but also in rescue operations. The vessel has given invaluable service with the increasing number of cruise ships there. the primary role of this vessel is to patrol and to survey the Antarctic and south Atlantic, maintaining a sovereign presence in that area and supporting the global community of Antarctica. The primary function of the vessel is not sea rescue, although it has performed that responsibility when in the vicinity. The ship has never been in the area for 12 months of the year.

A Class 1 Icebreaker she was originally built in Norway in 1990 as MV Polar Circle. The RN chartered her in 1991 before she commissioned as HMS Polar Circle on 21 November 1991. She was subsequently renamed HMS Endurance. Her Mission is "To patrol and survey the Antarctic and South Atlantic, maintaining Sovereign Presence with Defence Diplomacy and supporting the global community of Antarctica". This involves close links with the Foreign Office, United Kingdom Hydrographic Office and the British Antarctic Survey. She deploys annually to the Antarctic, her operating area for 7 months of the year. Her base port is Portsmouth, which is also the ship's affiliated town.

Endurance displaces 6,604 tons and is approximately 91 meters long with a breadth of 17.9 meters and an 8.5 meter draft. She has a speed of 15 knots, a complement of 116 and usually carries a contingent of Royal Marines. Officially classed as an Icebreaker, her strengthened bow can break one metre thick ice at a speed of 3 knots. She has a flight deck and hanger and carries a Lynx helicopter. HMS Endurance is propelled by 2 diesel engines, these are huge, producing over 8000 shaft horse power. That's about the equivalent of 100 small family cars combined. Perhaps this is just as well as she displaces approximately 6000 tonnes, the equivalent of about 600 of those family cars. With her fuel tanks full to the brim of 1,200 cubic metres, that's 1,200,000 litres, she can travel an impressive 24,600 nautical miles. Enough to comfortably get all round the world, but it would take over 12 weeks!

In May 1992 it was decided to rename as HMS 'Endurance' the Royal Navy's ice patrol ship, HMS 'Polar Circle'. This move was welcomed by all those on the Falkland Islands as a firm indication of the commitment of Her Majesty's Government to their future security and welfare; as Lord Shackleton had done so much over so many years to represent the interests of the islanders.

HMS ENDURANCE has a close working relationship with the British Antarctic Survey. Whilst there is no official agreement between the Royal Navy and the British Antarctic Survey, support to British Antarctic Survey science is given as one of the three tasks in the mission statement of HMS ENDURANCE. While in Antarctica, approximately one third of HMS ENDURANCE's time is spent in support of British Antarctic Survey science, including the Antarctic Funding Initiative. This role is crucial to British Antarctic Survey science, particularly the helicopter capability.

A serious incident arose on 16 December 2008 through the changing of seawater filters while the ship was under way in the Magellan Straits rather than in dry dock or shallows, and that "Endurance" had her annual maintenance at Simon's Town in South Africa rather than, as was normal practice, in the United Kingdom. The difficulty arose during routine cleaning of freshwater filters. A seawater valve was changed and that the crew could not close it properly, which led to water coming into the engine room and elsewhere on the boat. Therefore, it was decided to isolate the engine room to prevent further water from coming on board. As a result, the ship lost propulsion. A Chilean naval vessel and helicopter went to the rescue of the "Endurance" along with the Norwegian cruise ship.

HMS "Endurance" returned in April 2009 aboard the heavy lift vessel MV "Target". The cost to the Department of returning her to the United Kingdom was approximately 4.3 million. Subject to a detailed survey, the intention was that the ship will be repaired prior to her return to service. The vessel was due for two sessions of repair and serious maintenance between May and October 2009 and between May and October 2010. It is hoped that those two costs, which are already in the budget, will go a long way towards meeting the cost of the repair to the damage.

HMS Endurance normally undertakes her duties in the austral summer so this year's patrol has, through force of circumstance, been curtailed. Operational deployments are continually weighed against defence responsibilities around the world. Her Majesty's Government are aware of the strategic value of sovereign presence in the South Atlantic and Antarctic regions. A number of options are under consideration but it was not clear how long the repairs to HMS Endurance will take.

The decision on the future of HMS Endurance was expected to be taken in mid 2011, following the outcome of the Strategic Defence and Security Review. The Ministry of Defence is currently reviewing options for the optimum provision of the ice patrol capability in the interim period. Options for restoring our Ice Patrol capability were being examined and no final decisions on whether to repair or replace HMS Endurance have yet been taken.

"Endurance" is not planned to go out of service until 2015. The Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence have discussed who should take prime responsibility for funding this kind of exercise, given that the ship's primary purpose is the sovereign presence in the area.

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