New Antarctic icebreaker docks in Hobart
After several delays and a 24,000km ocean voyage, Australia's new $529 million Antarctic icebreaker has docked at its Hobart home.
Plans to welcome the RSV Nuyina with a River Derwent flotilla and waterfront party on Saturday morning were scuttled by a snap three-day lockdown in southern Tasmania.
The 160m-long vessel can carry 117 expeditioners and is a significant upgrade to the nation's scientific and research station re-supply efforts.
"The Nuyina is a Swiss army knife of ships," Australian Antarctic Division director Kim Ellis said.
"As well as all its logistic capabilities it represents once of the most advanced science platforms on the ocean.
"The ship is going to be the most significant element in our Antarctic program. It represents Australia's presence in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic."
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the vessel, named after an Indigenous word for southern lights, would be much more than a supply ship for Australia's Antarctic bases.
"She's got some pretty incredible laboratories and ability and capability, so don't just think about this vessel as transporting our expeditioners south and bringing the gear there and back," she said.
"She's a floating laboratory, 20 laboratories in fact."
Nuyina contains a unique 13m 'moon pool' allowing robot craft to be deployed through the hull.
On top of the built-in laboratories, it can be fitted with modular labs in shipping containers.
It left the Netherlands in early September and will undergo further testing, including ice trials, in Antarctica, and outfitting.
"The ship will begin operations later in December with its first commissioning voyages down south," Mr Ellis said.
"It will undertake some trials and tests and the same time undertake some cargo and fuel delivery work.
"It'll return back to Hobart, then another trip to Mawson (research station) and Macquarie (Island)."
Nuyina had to be towed from Romania, where it was built, to southern Holland for sea trials after the travel of specialists was hampered by COVID-19 restrictions.
It was originally expected to arrive in Tasmania in 2020, and had suffered building delays prior to COVID-19.
Four coins, including an Australian 50 cent piece were welded into the ship's hull, as per maritime tradition, during early construction in 2017.
It replaces previous icebreaker, Aurora Australis, which retired from its role in March 2020 after 30 years.
A temporary re-supply vessel chartered last summer caught fire in the Southern Ocean and was forced to limp to Western Australia with returning expeditioners aboard.
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