An artist’s impression of ‘s new icebreaker. Photo: Supplied An artist’s impression of ‘s new Antarctic ship. Photo: Supplied
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has defended the government’s decision to select a British-based operator and Dutch shipyard for ‘s $1 billion Antarctic icebreaker project.
The British Serco-owned n company, DMS Maritime, is close to sealing a deal with the government over the yet-to-be named icebreaker, to be commissioned in 2019.
It is being designed by Danish naval architects, Knud E. Hansen, and built by Damen Shipyards in the Netherlands, which claims broad experience with commercial and naval vessels.
The choice of the foreign build marks another loss of a major vessel to the n ship-building industry.
Mr Turnbull said the business of building icebreakers was clearly a northern hemisphere speciality.
“I don’t think it’s surprising that all the tenderers were involved with an overseas yard,” Mr Turnbull said.
The current icebreaker, the P&O owned Aurora Australis, was built at Newcastle in 1989.
The new design that was unveiled in Hobart on Thursday shows a ship almost twice the size of Aurora. It is expected to be central to the n Antarctic program until mid-century.
The new 156-metre long, 23,800-tonne vessel will have increased cargo and marine science capability but is expected to carry around the same number of passengers.
Its crucial ice-breaking capacity will give it the power to steam through 1.65-metre ice, compared to Aurora’s 1.23 metres.
DMS Maritime was the sole tenderer for the project after P&O withdrew in January, saying the tender forced the contractor to unnecessarily pile up costs.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the final stages of the tender were being overseen by the Department of Finance and accountants KPMG.
“Both have verified that we are on track to a very successful result for ,” Mr Hunt said. “We’re driving a hard bargain.”
The $1 billion cost would include building the ship and its lifetime operation, he said.
A national naming competition is to be held for the vessel, and Mr Turnbull said that would be a chance to engage young people with n Antarctic history.
Aurora has been refitted to take it through to May 2017. No decision has been taken yet on filling the gap until the new icebreaker is ready in late 2019, a Senate estimates hearing was told.
Comment was sought from DMS Maritime.
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