South Africa’s new ice-breaker, the R1.3-billion SA Agulhas II, has returned to port after successfully completing a series of ice trials in the north of the Bay of Bothnia, having sailed from Rauma, Finland on March 19.
Department of Environment Affairs (DEA) project manager Alan Robertson says the trials were “very successful” and that the ship “behaved beyond expectation”.
The purpose of the trials was to make a range of measurements while the newly built vessel was navigating in ice.
In addition to measuring the thickness and density of the ice, load cells fitted in various compartments on the ship measured the actual load on the hull and propulsion system.
Participants in the experiment, the first of its kind conducted on a new-build ice-breaker, included the DEA, shipbuilder STX Finland, the Aalto and Oulu Universities, in Finland, Stellenbosch University, Aker Arctic, Det Norske Veritas, Wartsila and Rolls Royce.
In addition to the load measurements, vibration measurements were made in key areas of the ship.
Because of the lateness in the season, the ice had already begun melting, notes Robertson, but the ship was able to navigate in ice up to 600 mm thick without any difficulty.
The SA Agulhas II has been designed to navigate one-meter-thick pack ice at a speed of five knots.
Measurements will continue during the ship's first Sanae IV Antarctic base relief voyage in December 2012.
Apart from Sanae IV, the SA Agulhas II will also service the South African Gough Island and Marion Island bases, taking over from the 34-year-old SA Agulhas. It will spend around 180 days a year on the water providing logistical support for the three South African bases, with another 120 days dedicated to research voyages.
During the recent voyage in Finland, the opportunity was also taken to complete the final testing and acceptance of the SA Agulhas II's propulsion system, and both the shipyard and DEA are now busy with preparations for the official hand-over of the vessel to the South African government on April 4.
It is planned that the ship will leave Finland on April 5 and arrive in Cape Town on May 3.