Chile Builds Its First Icebreaker Ship
By Carolina Contreras/Diálogo July 20, 2017K8cGSL Latin America’s maritime industry has a new player. The Chilean Navy will build its first icebreaker ship, Antártica 1 at an estimated total cost of $315 million. Its design and basic engineering will be completed in September, while the shipyard Astilleros y Maestranza de la Armada (ASMAR, per its Spanish acronym) will begin the shipbuilding phase during the third quarter at its plant in Talcahuano, located 505 kilometers from Santiago. “This will be the first shipyard in Latin America to build one of these vessels, incorporating new technology and improved processes,” Alejandro König, the manager of ASMAR Talcahuano Naval Construction, told Diálogo. According to the timeline, the polar ship will have a useful life of 30 years and will be operational in time for the 2022-2023 National Antarctic Campaign season. Antártica 1 will have modern features that will allow Chile to project its presence in the white continent, in order to support scientific studies globally, give logistical support to Chilean and international bases, and offer the capabilities necessary for carrying out search-and-rescue efforts. “The study of science on the Antarctic Peninsula will continue to be strengthened,” José Retamales, the director of the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACh, per its Spanish acronym) told Diálogo. “Physical, chemical, and biological oceanographic studies will be performed, with spaces set aside for specific use by the scientists,” he added. The genesis of the project The Antártica 1 Project originated in 2011 when it had become evident that the icebreaker Almirante Óscar Viel (AP-46) was at the end of its useful life cycle and a replacement had to be considered. The Chilean Navy’s Directorate of Programs, Research and Development, and ASMAR’s Department of Naval Construction Projects jointly compiled the requirements from the various lead agencies involved in the national Antarctic work: INACh, Chilean Army, Air Force, and, especially, Navy. The official start of the project was marked by a symbolic steel-cutting ceremony held on May 9th at ASMAR’s facilities in Talcahuano. “This will place the country at the forefront of protection and projection on the continent of Antarctica and the surrounding area,” said Chilean President Michelle Bachelet during the formal ceremony. She was accompanied by Admiral Enrique Larragaña, the commander in chief of the Chilean Navy, and Minister of Defense José Antonio Gómez. Technical and operational capacities Antártica 1 will be an Ice Class (PC5) icebreaker, whose basic engineering is in the hands of the Canadian company, Vard Marine. It will measure 111 meters long and 21 meters wide, with a draft of seven meters. It will be able to sail at a constant speed of two knots in ice up to one meter thick, covered in 30 centimeters of snow. In normal weather conditions, it will have a maximum speed of 15 knots. Thanks to its hull, it can operate in extremely cold environments - at minus 30 degrees Celsius. It will have a 60-day autonomous range without resupply, a 120-person capacity, and it will be able to operate 250 days a year, unlike the Almirante Óscar Viel (AP-46), which could do so only in the summer months. Chile has four facilities in Antarctica which operate year round, plus eight summer bases, and seven shelters spread out over the South Shetland Islands archipelago and the Antarctic Peninsula. The Chilean bases, as well as those of other countries, will receive logistical support from this new ship. For such purposes, Antártica 1 will have the capacity to transport up to 910 cubic meters of cargo and 400 cubic meters of fuel. It will also have a flight deck and a hangar for two transport helicopters. Additionally, it will have loading cranes, capstans, and davits, while 10 tons of scientific equipment, plus a 10-meter mechanical arm can be set up at the stern. “Antártica 1 will have greater capabilities for supporting high-level, onboard scientific activities which will allow it to break from the seasonality of scientific work, accessing data in real time, and analyzing the results obtained while underway,” Retamales said. “It will have modern, hydroacoustic equipment, such as echo sounding, sonar, an ocean floor profiler, a current profiler, and a high-precision acoustic positioning system. It will also be outfitted with biology, microbiology, and chemistry labs, and it will have the means for collecting, storing, and preserving water samples and samples from the seabed, with the capacity provided by modern and spacious refrigeration chambers,” he added. “It will also be ready to conduct search-and-rescue duties in the event of sea, land, or air accidents in Antarctica, with support from onboard helicopters, rescue boats, and a sick bay with surgical capacities,” König said. “It will meet the highest standards of safety for protecting human life at sea, as set forth in the Polar Code, and it will also comply with environmental regulations concerning water treatment, gas emissions, and waste processing.” Regional contribution ASMAR’s plant in Talcahuano – which was destroyed by an earthquake in February 2010 – has been completely remodeled to move forward the Chilean Navy’s major construction challenge. The plant’s manufacturing capacities were expanded and improved, and its personnel training updated as well. Building a vessel of this scale represents a benefit to the region where ASMAR is located, since more than one-third of the project will be done using local labor and will create 480 jobs over the next five years. It is foreseen that once Antártica 1 is ready, it will serve as the key to opening up international interest in manufacturing ships of this size and greater. “The fact of having modernized our technical and manufacturing capabilities will keep us at the forefront of naval construction,” König concluded.