Breaking the ice on
Steps are being taken to replace the ageing research and supply vessel Aurora Australis with a new Antarctic icebreaker.
The Australian Antarctic Division has invited interested parties to submit proposals for the design, build and long-term operation and maintenance of a new multi-purpose icebreaker.
Minister for Environment, Tony Burke said the bright orange icon of Australia’s modern Antarctic program, Aurora Australis, had been supporting Australia’s Antarctic program for more than 23 years and was nearing the end of its useful life.
“Our Antarctic explorers stand on the shoulders of the great explorers and scientists and they stand on the decks of the great vessels which have made the journey through the ice,” Mr Burke said.
“The icebreaker plays an essential role in resupplying our Antarctic stations and supporting critical Antarctic and Southern Ocean research,” he said.
“Ensuring Australia has future access to an icebreaker appropriate for the challenging conditions and future requirements is a top priority.”
Mr Burke said $1.7 million had been allocated in 2012-13 for the development of a detailed business case for a new Antarctic shipping capability, including essential associated infrastructure and support.
“We have invited industry to come forward with cost-effective proposals for a new ship to inform the next stage of the Government’s consideration, but no decisions have yet been made on proceeding with further stages of the procurement,” he said.
“The Australian Antarctic Territory covers 42 per cent of the continent.
“We must look at how we sustain our strong Antarctic presence into the future – modern sophisticated transport is critical to that.”
Mr Burke said the complex process of replacing the Aurora Australis would take some time and it was expected to be at least five years before a new ship was operating.
Edition 344, 15 January 2013