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R.V. Polarstern II icebreaker

R.V. Polarstern II icebreakerThe retreat of Arctic sea ice due to global warming is rapidly opening up the Arctic to increased international and intra-Arctic shipping. It is now possible, and may soon be common, to ship goods from Asia to Europe and eastern North America via the Northern Sea Route or even further north. The increasing industrialization of the Arctic is also a major factor in the growth of Arctic shipping.

The polar regions, and in particular the Arctic is being transformed by rapid environmental change and commercial exploitation. There is therefore an increasing interest, and necessity, for marine science to monitor and understand these changes to the physical environment and impact on the ecosystem. However, the polar regions present a number of additional challenges for research vessels and associated sampling technologies.

The IMO Polar Code, which came into force in January 2017 sets out mandatory requirements for all shipping-related matters relating to navigating in Polar waters. including ship design, construction and equipment. Due to these requirements, the number of ice-going vessels is still very limited, which in turn limits the scientific cruises and research that can be done to develop understanding of these remote regions and the impacts of climate change on them.

The Alfred Wegener Institute conducts research in the Arctic, Antarctic and oceans of the high and mid latitudes. It coordinates polar research in Germany and provides major infrastructure to the international scientific community, such as the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations in the Arctic and Antarctica. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of the sixteen research centres of the Helmholtz Association, the largest scientific organisation in Germany.

The Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research welcomed the recommendation of the Council of Science and Humanities to build a new research icebreaker, Polarstern II. The body announced the result of its last session in Berlin 15 November 2010. At that timeit was projected that the new vessel could go into operation in 2016 and replace the research vessel Polarstern in the medium term. The estimated costs were approximately 450 million euros. The present Polarstern will be over 30 years old when it is replaced. As of 2014, she was scheduled for a well-earned retirement in 2017, when she would be replaced by Polarstern II.

“We are very pleased that the project was assessed positively,” states Prof. Karin Lochte, Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute in the Helmholtz Association, which operates the RV Polarstern. “The Polarstern is the Alfred Wegener Institute’s most important instrument. We need a reliable research platform so we can continue our work in the polar regions. The recommendation for a new research icebreaker comes at just the right time as climate change has an exceptionally pronounced impact in the Arctic and Antarctica,” adds Lochte.

The scientific coordinator for the Polarstern, Dr. Eberhard Fahrbach from the Alfred Wegener Institute, describes the great need for vessel time in the Arctic and Antarctica: “For many expeditions there are applications from two to three times more researchers than we can accommodate.” In addition, by supplying Neumayer Station III and other Antarctic stations, the Polarstern performs important logistics tasks that have to be included in voyage planning.

In the next step the Alfred Wegener Institute will submit an application to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research to be able to draw up documents suitable as invitations to tender. “There are already design studies on Polarstern II considering the logistic and scientific aspects,” said Dr. Uwe Nixdorf, head of the Logistics Department at the Alfred Wegener Institute. Scientific and shipbuilding-oriented working groups composed of researchers, nautical experts and technicians from German marine research institutions have compiled these requirements.

The established Wissenschaftlich-Technischer Fachausschuss (WTF - Scientific and Technical Committee) ensures that the construction of the new research vessel will take place optimally in accordance with the intended research and logistics tasks, especially in the polar regions. The tasks of the WTF are primarily to define the scientific and logistical requirements of the new FS POLARSTERN II and to examine their technical feasibility and cost development in ongoing dialogue with the relevant bodies. With the project "Scientific-Technical Expert Committee (WTF) at the AWI for the construction of the POLARSTERN II" the aim is to build an office in support of the WTF. Furthermore, the office has the task to take over the project coordination and to assist the steering committee.

With the new construction of the POLASTERN II, the German marine and polar scientists will receive a versatile research platform that will enable them to meet the demands of modern, interdisciplinary marine and polar research in the coming decades. This includes, first and foremost, ensuring the logistical supply of the German wintering station in the Antarctic, the Neumayer Station III. The construction of the FS POLARSTERN II will significantly strengthen the German position within the framework of international research cooperation and make an important contribution to increasing the international competitiveness of German marine and polar research.

Navigating in the polar areas required for Polar Reserach Vessel [PRV] requires an ice class for the ship. There are several ice classes to choose from (e.g. the IACS polar class) and these affect the hull strength, weight of the vessel and may set a requirement for the needed propulsion power. It is well known that steel weight is the biggest part of the vessel total weight. With an increased ice class and ice-going performance, the capacity of cargo, open water performance, underwater noise etc. will decrease. It is essential to find a balance between these contradictory performances in order fulfil the specified requirements; as an example, a good and optimized bow design for open water performance (e.g. bubble sweep-down minimization) is bad for icebreaking performance (increased resistance).

When designing a PRV, it is always a question of compromises between ice and open water performance due to harsh operating conditions in both open water and ice. This setup demands that the ship will fulfil several tasks in various conditions. Fulfilling these demands creates fundamental decisions with regards to the ship concept. One of the main features of a modern icebreaking research vessel is a requirement for good icebreaking performance which limits the bow form (at least at the water line) variations.

The modern icebreaking research vessels designed and built today have remarkable endurances up to 60-90 days, which means that securing the comfort for people on board becomes essential. In the most recent PRV projects the use of anti-rolling tanks (especially U-shaped tanks) as the primary roll reduction method has become more and more suitable. Other roll reduction methods such as fin stabilizers or bilge keels have excessive negative effects on the icebreaking performance.

Due to the increasing demand of the multifunctional roles of research vessels the designer needs to pay special attention to the arrangement of the aft working deck. It’s role during the large scale of scientific missions has grown more important in the most recent icebreaking research vessels. This is the deck (exposed weather deck) where most of the handling operations are carried out. The need for having multiple equipment and containers fitted on this deck requires a matrix of fitting and container cup arrangements.

Designing for cold environment forms an integral part of the design of the vessel and her systems. The cold weather capability shall be realized in the initial phase due to the complexity of all systems that need to be considered for the cold environment. Handling the cold environment or winterization is not just a so called “winter jacket” that can be put on in later stage.

The subject matter of the tendering procedure is the new construction and the ready-to-operate delivery of the research vessel POLARSTERN II. This includes all necessary services in order to produce the ship without defects, complete and ready for operation so that it meets the extensive requirements for its intended use in scientific and utility operations. The owner of the successor building of the Polarstern will be the Federal Republic of Germany.

By 2018 the negotiation procedure was expected to close in 2019 for the job - estimated to involve costs of €550-650 million rather than an originally estimated €450 million. Until then, details of the negotiated procedure were confidential for procurement law reasons - no information may be provided on the general information. The federal government will hand over the successor POLARSTERN II to the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), in addition to the exploration of the polar seas and the supply of the permanently occupied research facility in the Antarctic - Neumayer Station III.

German shipyard Lloyd Werft Bremerhaven (LWB), part of the Malaysian Genting Group, regularly services the German research ship Polarstern. It had hopes of winning the contract to build its successor Polarstern 2. One question in particular is whether the order for the construction of the new German research vessel "Polarstern 2" going to Bremerhaven or to a Finnish shipyard. If the order goes to Bremerhaven, that would mean an occupancy rate for five years from the start of signing – with work for around 2,500 people. The hull of the "Polarstern 2" is to be built in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

R.V. Polarstern II icebreaker

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Page last modified: 10-05-2019 11:49:00 ZULU