The Australian Government has given its approval for the procurement of a new icebreaker, in an effort to boost its commitment to Tasmania and Antarctica.
Funding for the ship acquisition has been set aside by the government who will soon release a request for tender (RfT).
The new icebreaker, which is expected to be based in Hobart, will replace the ageing Aurora Australis and provide critical support for Australia’s Antarctic research stations.
Features of the new vessel include improved icebreaking ability, increased cargo capacity and the capability to undertake critical marine science within the sea ice zone, while operating more efficiently and effectively.
Australia Environment Minister Greg Hunt said: "As part of the Abbott Government’s Tasmanian economic growth strategy, we are committed to bolstering the role of Hobart as a transport centre for expeditions to Antarctica."
Additionally, the government is planning to expand Hobart International Airport, increase scientific research in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean and build Hobart as the global gateway to East Antarctica.
About $24m has been committed for three years of a new Antarctic Gateway Partnership between the Australian Antarctic Division, the University of Tasmania and the CSIRO, for collaborative large-scale scientific research.
An on-going funding of $45.3m and $13.4m over four years is also included in the budget, to support logistical services for the country’s Antarctic programme.
Furthermore, around $9.4m will be funded for 2014 to 2015, to enable the seamless operation of Australia’s three Antarctic and one sub-Antarctic station.
Later this year, a long-term strategy to boost the country’s presence in Antarctica will be released, which is currently being developed under the government’s 20-year strategic plan for Antarctic and Southern Ocean research.
Image: Researchers aboard the icebreaker Aurora Australis. Photo: courtesy of Alex Kozyr.