SA Agulhas II helping Finns better understand hullforms


The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and Stellenbosch University have embarked on a research programme using the SA Agulhas II to further the understanding of the hull design of icebreaking ships and the reaction in ice conditions.

The vessel is the latest icebreaking ship being built by STX Finland and will be used in a full-scale trial at STX Finland next month, the website reports. The vessel has been built to replace the aging SA Agulhas at a cost of R1.3 billion and will allow for key scientific and climate change research to take place.

The new ship will transport scientist and maintenance crews to the SANAE base in the Antarctic as well as Marion and Gough Islands. Besides being a key research vessel, the SA Agulhas II is also an icebreaking ship. This is due to the special hull design of the vessel which allows for cutting through one metre of level ice at a steady five knots. adds the Department of Environmental Affairs and Stellenbosch University have joined partners with STX Finland, Aker Arctic Technology and the Universities of Oulu and Aalto Finland to take part in the study. According to Dr. Annie Bekker, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, Stellenbosch University, “The research aim is to create a scientific basis for the design of ice-going ships, in particular the relationship between operational conditions and ice load on the hull and human comfort in terms of vibration and sound.”

The entire research programme is to cost an approximate €2.5 million and the overall aim is to create and improve a scientific basis for design of ice-going ships including factors such as the ship hull, propulsion, power requirement, comfort for passengers and crew onboard and safe navigation in ice. It is also to reinforce previous studies and create new information by establishing solid connections between ice properties and ice conditions and measured ice load from hull and propulsion shafting.
“The full scale ice trials are the first to be done on a multipurpose, icebreaking vessel. We will be measuring, recording and processing a unique data set that will make significant contributions in the development of vessels required to navigate in a range of ice conditions. While this is a great benefit to the designers and the Classification Societies, the DEA will learn a great deal about the performance capabilities of the S.A. Agulhas II, this significantly improving the levels of safety and the protection of the hull in heavy ice conditions,” says Alan Robertson, S.A. Agulhas II Project Manager.

According to Professor Pentti Kujala, Marine and Traffic Safety Professor, Aalto University Finland, research in this extent has not been done before as they have not had a ship like the S.A. Agulhas II in Finland for a long time. The ship is powerful enough to navigate in the Baltic Sea ice and the Antarctic sea ice which gives them a new opportunity to make full-scale measurements and improvements for future ships on a number of levels. “This is a great opportunity for South Africa and Finland to network and exchange information. We are getting older and need to start the education of the next generation of Polar ship expertise,” said Professor Kujala.

STX Finland is one of the more experienced shipbuilding companies in the world and specialises in building the world’s largest cruise vessels, ferries, offshore service vessels, naval craft, Arctic ships and other specialist research vessels. STX has built 60% of the world’s icebreaking fleet with the most powerful being the Russian icebreakers TAYMYR and VAYGACH built in 1985. They also built the Finnish Fennica and Nordica multifunctional icebreakers in 1993.

The DEA awarded the contract of building the SA Agulhas II to STX Finland with the specifications calling for the ship to be a tanker, a cargo carrier, a passenger ship, a research vessel, a helicopter carrier and an icebreaker.

SA Agulhas II is expected to embark on her maiden voyage to Cape Town in April.