HMS Protector (A173) was chartered in 2011 as a temporary replacement for HMS Endurance (A171). She was purchased outright by the Ministry of Defence in 2013 when it became clear that Endurance would not return to service.
Navy’s ice patrol ship leaves Portsmouth for the last time
by Sam Bannister
The Royal Navy’s ice patrol ship HMS Protector has left Portsmouth for the last time today.
Her ship’s company are off on a double deployment to the frozen continent of Antarctica.
When the ship returns, she will head for her new home port of Devonport in Plymouth.
The 5,000-tonne ship will stay in the region for two consecutive deployments, returning to the UK in spring 2015.
She will conduct surveys and patrols on behalf of the UK Hydrographic Office, British Antarctic Survey and Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
HMS Protector’s commanding officer, Captain Rhett Hatcher, said: ‘The ship’s company have worked incredibly hard in training and preparation over the summer.
‘We have installed a number of equipment upgrades and improvements and having completed operational sea training we are now ready for the challenges of the planned double deployment.
‘Experienced members of the crew and new ones alike are very much looking forward to this deployment and proudly flying the White Ensign and the Union Flag around the Antarctic territories and the region.’
Endurance been out of service since 2008. All we’ve been doing for the last 5-years is waiting for the shoe to drop. Protector is a perfectly adequate replacement. So there’s no need for drama. Besides which, the Endurance that many of you are no doubt thinking of is this one (1967-1991) and not this one (1991-2008).
HMS Endurance: Former ice patrol ship to be scrapped
The Royal Navy’s former ice patrol ship HMS Endurance – damaged when its engine control room flooded off the Chilean coast in 2008 – is to be scrapped.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the Portsmouth-based ship, which was replaced by HMS Protector in 2011, would go out of service in 2015.
A MoD spokesman said the “damage sustained” by the ship off Chile meant repairs were not “economically viable”.
The incident near South America saw 15 civilians airlifted to safety.
The spokesman said: “Given the level of damage sustained and the subsequent deterioration of the ship, it was not considered economically viable to repair her.”
‘Value for money’
The mission of the ship, which is also known as Red Plum, was to patrol and survey the Antarctic and South Atlantic. That duty has now being undertaken by HMS Protector.
HMS Protector was built in 2001 as an Antarctic research ship and was formerly known under the Norwegian name of MV Polarbjorn.It underwent a refit to join the Royal Navy and was officially named HMS Protector in June 2011.
The MoD spokesman said £5m had been spent “to bring HMS Protector up to the Royal Navy’s world-class standards” and work had been done to improve the ship’s communications systems and add specialist hydrographic equipment, including a survey motor boat.
“The purchase of HMS Protector offers good value for money and secures the UK’s long term ice patrol survey capability,” he said.
Naval History and Heritage Command, Photographic Section, UM-26.
Only the “majors.” Smaller vessels (less than 10,000 HP), such as the Royal Navy’s HMS Protector, and “ice-strengthened” vessels such as the British Antarctic Survey’s RRS Ernest Shackleton, are not included.
U.S. Coast Guard’s 2013 Reivew of Major Ice Breakers of the World
The Coast Guard Office of Waterways and Ocean Policy (CG-WWM) began producing the chart of major icebreakers of the world in July 2010. Since then, we have gathered icebreaker information and recommendations from a variety of sources and experts, including icebreaker subject-matter experts, internet posts, news updates, Arctic experts and Coast Guard offices with icebreaker equities. We validate our information within the public forum and update the chart at least semi-annually based on new information and feedback. This chart represents the Coast Guard’s current factual understanding of the major icebreaker fleet. This chart is not intended for icebreaker fleet comparisons and no inference should be drawn regarding a country’s icebreaker “ranking” against another.
Scope. Vessels meeting the general definition of a polar icebreaker per the 2007 National Research Council report on Polar Icebreakers in a Changing World are included. These vessels “have sailed in significant sea ice in either the Arctic or the Antarctic,” have “ice strengthening sufficient for polar ice” and possess “installed power of at least 10,000 horsepower.” Minimally ice-strengthened ships (enough to survive in ice, rather than operate in it) and icebreakers of less than 10,000 horsepower are not included. With the exception of the Baltic icebreakers, this chart does not indicate where their owners may actually operate them. In addition, the chart does not specify whether a vessel’s crew is civilian or military.
Classification Methodology: The chart organizes the icebreakers first by country, then by installed power category, and finally in order of placement in service, youngest to oldest. The chart colors icebreakers by their relative capability estimated using brake horsepower as the most common basis. The most capable icebreakers are black, the next level sea-green and the lightest icebreakers are blue. Icebreakers in construction are colored yellow, and planned icebreakers are white. Planned icebreakers are placed on the chart if we can reliably state they are funded. The chart identifies government-owned or -operated icebreakers with the country’s flag next to the icebreaker. Nuclear-powered icebreakers are marked with an N. Baltic icebreakers designed to operate solely in seasonal, first-year Baltic Sea ice but meeting the ice-strengthening and horsepower criteria are marked on the chart with a B. Most Baltic icebreakers may not have operated in the Arctic due to concerns with open-ocean sea-keeping ability for open water transits.
Fleet numbers and Icebreaker Size in Context. The fleet numbers and icebreaker size tend to align along each county’s economic necessity for icebreaker resources. For example, the economies of Finland, Russia and Sweden have greater dependence on major icebreakers to pursue economic goals in the Arctic and Baltic winters than the economies of other nations. Also, ice in these countries’ shipping lanes, rivers and ports forms earlier, lasts longer, and requires more power to break, requiring more extensive icebreaking capabilities. Similarly, the Canadian icebreaker fleet supports summer access and supply to Canada’s Arctic communities. In contrast, in addition to the polar icebreakers already listed, the U.S has a number of icebreakers operating in the Great Lakes, New England and the mid-Atlantic to facilitate commerce and for exigent circumstances, but these are not listed in this chart because the icebreakers are not required to meet the threshold of at least 10,000 BHP.
Russia requests meeting… “in good faith”… then blocks proposals… which leaves you wondering… what is it that they want? Fish? Oil?
Russia blocks Antarctic sanctuary bid
RUSSIA has blocked attempts by countries including Australia to create the world’s largest ocean sanctuary off Antarctica, green groups say.
The Russian representative questioned the legal right of a meeting in Bremerhaven, northern Germany, to declare such a haven, according to organisations at the talks.
The three-day talks gathered 24 nations plus the European Union (EU) in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a 31-year-old treaty tasked with overseeing conservation and sustainable exploitation of the Southern Ocean.
One proposal, floated by the United States and New Zealand, covered 1.6 million square kilometres of the Ross Sea, the deep bay on Antarctica’s Pacific side.
The other, backed by Australia, France and the EU, would protect 1.9 million square kilometres of coastal seas off East Antarctica, on the frozen continent’s Indian Ocean side.
Protecting those areas – which biologists say are rich in unique species – would more than double the amount of ocean sanctuary in the world.
Andrea Kavanagh, in charge of the Southern Ocean Sanctuaries campaign at the US green group Pew Environment, said Russia had refused to negotiate, saying simply that it questioned the legal status of CCAMLR to declare such zones.
“The actions of the Russian delegation have put international cooperation and goodwill at risk, the two key ingredients needed for global marine conservation,” she said.
“After two years of preparation, including this meeting, which Russia requested to settle the scientific case for the Ross Sea and East Antarctic proposals, we leave with nothing,” said Steve Campbell, director of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) of green groups.
“All members, except Russia, came to this meeting to negotiate in good faith,” he said in a statement.
The parties met in Hobart, Australia, last October, but failed to reach a deal because of opposition by China and Russia, supported by Ukraine, which said restrictions on fishing were too onerous.
As a result, they agreed to an exceptional meeting this July. It was only the second time that the CCAMLR has met outside its annual gathering.
The fate of the proposed marine sanctuaries now lies in the next annual meeting of CCAMLR in Hobart, running from October 23 to November 1, the sources said.
Ms Kavanagh said many delegates had been stunned and dismayed at the setback, given the effort in time and money to attend a meeting that had been requested by Russia itself, ostensibly to address questions of science.
“The proponent countries were unwilling to negotiate when it appeared that Russia was here in bad faith. They weren’t willing to lay their cards on the table,” she said.
The waters around the Antarctica are home to some 16,000 known species, including whales, seals, albatrosses and penguins, as well as unique species of fish, sponges and worms that are bioluminescent or produce their own natural anti-freeze to survive in the region’s chilly waters.
They are also rich in nutrients, whose influence spreads far beyond Antarctica thanks to the powerful current that swirls around the continent.
But a quick question: If the Polar Star is the “only heavy icebreaker” in the USCG inventory, then what exactly is the USCGC Healy? Not heavy enough?
Although it does also raise the issue as to why there is not a second Healy class icebreaker in service ready to replace the 37-year old Polar Star? Does the US intend relying on the Russians and Canadians in the future?
Polar Star headed for Arctic ice trials
The United States’ only heavy icebreaker will soon be back in service after a four-year, $90 million renovation. The USCGC Polar Star was scheduled to leave Unalaska last Friday to undergo several weeks of ice trials in the Arctic.
The 399-foot-long ship is painted bright red. Its decks are clean and shiny, and brand-new anchors rest in neatly coiled piles of chain on the prow. Ensign Paul Garcia explains that this is all the result of a massive overhaul of the ship that wrapped up in 2012. “The engines were getting replaced, the main gas turbines were getting replaced, all of our cranes … those are all brand new,” he says.
The ship also has new navigation equipment, new systems for lowering anchors and small boats, and a newly-equipped gym and movie theater to keep the crew in good spirits during polar voyages that can last up to six months.
The renovations are extensive and impressive, but the question still remains – does the ship actually work?
“Now, we need to make sure that all our equipment is functioning correctly, that we’re still able to withstand the same amount of force and break the same amount of ice that we were back in the ’80s,” says Garcia.
To that end, the crew of the Polar Star will be heading up to the Arctic, where they will perform various ice breaking maneuvers using a strategy that amounts to repeatedly beaching the ship on the ice.
“We have a lot of weight up forward,” says Garcia. “We kind of have a rounded hull and so we use our three main gas turbines to come up on the ice and then use that weight to come down and it smashes the ice and that’s how we create the channels. It’s called backing and ramming.”
And since the Coast Guard hasn’t had a heavy icebreaker for several years now, these ice tests will also be an opportunity for inexperienced crew members to get trained and qualified.
“You’re always going to have some growing pains,” says Garcia. “But this few weeks that we’re out here should hopefully take care of those. Fall time, I think we’ll be fully operational again and ready to perform any mission that the Coast Guard needs us to perform.”
While the Polar Star is heading for Arctic waters this summer, it will actually be spending most of its time in service in the Antarctic, breaking channels through the ice to resupply McMurdo Research Station. In addition to this yearly mission, dubbed Operation Deep Freeze, the ship will be available for scientific research, search and rescue and law enforcement missions, and, most importantly, maintaining a U.S. “presence” in Arctic waters.