A small fleet of tugs is towing Australia’s newest icebreaker from shipyard to shipyard in Europe as its commissioning is delayed by coronavirus
Damen Shipyards has built the new 16,300-tonne icebreaker in its Romanian shipyard for Australian Antarctic Division, but delays due to the global Covid-19 pandemic means final commissioning will be in the Netherlands.
RSV Nuyina is being towed from Damen’s shipyard in Galati, Romania, through the Mediterranean and up Western Europe’s Atlantic coastline to Damen’s facilities in the Dutch port of Vlissingen.
Australian Antarctic Division said this was required as the project was heavily delayed and relocating the ship to the Netherlands for commissioning was “the best chance of getting the project back on schedule”.
This will be one of the world’s most advanced scientific research vessels and will be able to break ice 1.65-m thick, says Australian Antarctic Division general manager for assets and infrastructure Rob Bryson.
He said Nuyina had finally left the shipyard under tug tow after months of delays due to restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 crisis.
The ship’s bow had an unexpected test in the Danube River. “The ship made contact with the riverbank while being steered away from an uncharted pontoon,” Mr Bryson said.
“Visual inspections show only superficial damage and after an hour delay, Nuyina continued to the Black Sea and then to the city of Constanta, where divers are now undertaking a thorough examination of the hull,” he continued. This was on 5 August.
“This is a 16,300-tonne icebreaker, with a reinforced steel hull, it is designed to crack through sea-ice, so while this is the ship’s first scrape, it certainly won’t be its last!” said Mr Bryson.
Nuyina will be towed 6,800 km through the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar, then through the Bay of Biscay and Channel to reach the Netherlands by the end of August.
The icebreaker has not undergone sea trials. So, it does not have the required regulatory certificates to conduct international voyages under its own power.
During ocean voyages one 50-m tug will tow Nuyina along this route. But in restricted passages and canals up to three tugs will be used.
When it reaches Vlissingen, Damen will complete final commissioning and conduct sea trials in the Netherlands.
Australian Antarctic Division expects Nuyina will arrive in Hobart, Tasmania, in the middle of 2021.
Use this link to view the explanatory video of the towage so far.
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