THE Australian Antarctic Program is planning to use three ships to support research and resupply activities this summer.

Australia’s newly arrived Antarctic icebreaker, RSV Nuyina, will be leading the Southern Ocean voyages over the summer.

Australian Antarctic Division operations and safety general manager Charlton Clark said there will be two other vessels to support Nuyina.

“We will have an ice-strengthened cargo vessel, Happy Dragon, and a second icebreaker contract –negotiations still underway – to ensure the major science projects for the summer season can be undertaken,” Mr Clark said.

Both vessels are due to arrive into Hobart in December.

RSV Nuyina at Hobart. Image: AAD

Nuyina’s first voyage south will be at the end of December, after a period of crew commissioning training and familiarisation around the Tasmanian coast,” Mr Clark said.

“While on this trials voyage Nuyina will take the opportunity to refuel in Burnie and take on the SAB [special Antarctic blend] fuel for refuelling Australian stations,” he said.

Nuyina fits within the physical limitations set out by TasPorts for transiting under the Tasman Bridge on the River Derwent. Ongoing simulation testing is identifying the suitable operating parameters for transit.

The focus of this testing is assessing the impact of windage – the surface area of the ship exposed to the force of the wind – and the effect this has when undertaking the transit in various weather conditions.

“The data collected from Nuyina on the delivery voyage will assist in this process, which is expected to be finalised mid-November,” Mr Clark said.

The crew onboard RSV Nuyina were alerted to a fault in the electrical system that powers a propulsion motor on the port shaft line when the icebreaker neared Hobart on Friday night.

After assessing the issue, it was decided the ship could safely use the starboard propulsion system to enter port on Saturday morning, without needing an external tug to assist.

A statement from the AAD said issues like this are not unexpected over the next two years, as the process of commissioning the vessel and its systems occurs.

Repair of this electrical fault will be covered under warranty provisions in the contract.

RSV Nuyina is designed to operate in the harsh and remote Antarctic environment and has a high level of redundancy across all its critical infrastructure systems.

There was no impact on the delivery voyage to Hobart and there is no impact anticipated for future voyages.

Over the course of last year’s Antarctic shipping season, the chartered research vessel and icebreaker MPV Everest suffered two separate fire incidents.

The first incident in January, was minor and the fire was put out using hand-held fire extinguishers.

However, the second fire incident last year on MPV Everest was more severe. On a voyage from Davis and Mawson stations to Hobart in April, the port-side engine room was engulfed in fire.

The vessel was diverted to Fremantle where it underwent repairs and the ATSB opened an investigation.

There were no injuries reported in either incident.