UK introduces new ice patrol ship

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The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has selected the icebreaker MV Polarbjorn (Polar Bear), renamed the HMS Protector, to become the Royal Navy’s new Antarctic ice patrol vessel.

The vessel will patrol and provide support to the South Atlantic Territories of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands. She will also carry out the role of Antarctic patrol ship and will work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the UK Hydrographic Office and the British Antarctic Survey. HMS Protector will take part in the Royal Navy’s Antarctic mission in November.

She will has replaced HMS Endurance under a three year lease from Norwegian company GC Rieber Shipping. HMS Endurance suffered serious damage when she flooded in the South Atlantic in 2008 and was withdrawn from service pending a decision on her future.

The MV Polarbjorn is a Norwegian vessel built in 2001 and chartered to the Royal Navy since April this year and commissioned into the Navy on June 23. Previously, she operated under charter as a polar research and subsea support vessel.

Polarbjorn has accommodation for 100. Large cargo holds and open deck areas provide storage capacity for remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and related equipment. A 50-ton crane and 25-ton stern A-frame allow equipment to be deployed over the side and over the stern.

Before being chartered to the Royal Navy, Polarbjorn underwent a ten-day refit in Odense, Denmark. The helipad, originally above her bridge, was repositioned over the stern. Other changes included the installation of an echo sounder survey system, an overhaul of the main engines and gearboxes and the addition of naval insignia.