Back in July, owner of the Damen Shipyards-built Antarctic research vessel Nuyina, the Australian Antarctic Division, announced a defect was found that required the shaft couplings to be replaced. Lengthy delivery times of the parts have now resulted in the ship not returning to service until April.

Initially, the Nuyina went to Singapore in April 2022 for scheduled maintenance, with the ship expected to return to Hobart in October.

In July, Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) Director Kim Ellis said the maintenance included improvements to the hydraulic control system within the propulsion system clutches. However, while these works were carried out, ‘an unexpected issue was discovered in the large couplings that connect the propulsion shafts with the clutches,’ stated Ellis.

Nuyina propulsion system layout
Layout of Nuyina propulsion system. AFC = friction clutch, shaft couplings circled in red (picture: Damen, supplied by AAD).

As a result, builder Damen Shipyards determined that the shaft couplings needed replacing. However, as Ellis pointed out at the time: ‘delivery timeframes for replacement couplings are lengthy, driven to a large extent by material shortages and supply chain issues.’ This meant the Nuyina was not expected to return to service until March, which has now been pushed back even further to April.

Also read: Nuyina, Spartacus and Viva compete for KNVTS Ship of the Year Award

Other vessels chartered

As a result, the AAD has had to charter vessels to takeover the supply of its Antarctic stations and the transport of expeditioners. These are the American icebreaker Aiviq and BigLift Shipping’s ice-strengthened Happy Dynamic.

Multi-purpose offshore vessel Aiviq is a 110-metre US icebreaking tug and supply vessel operated by Edison Chouest. The word ‘aiviq’ means walrus in Iñupiaq, the language of the Alaskan Iñupiat people. The AAD first chartered the Aiviq for the 2021/22 season. 

The Happy D-type fleet are flexible, heavy-lift, ice-strengthened vessels (Finnish ice class 1A). The 157-metre-long vessels were constructed in 2011 and are owned and operated by BigLift Shipping. MV Happy Dragon was chartered by the AAD in the 2021/22 season. MV Happy Dynamic is in service now.

MV Happy Dragon saw the largest single station resupply ever undertaken with the delivery of traverse cargo to Casey in the 2021/22 season. More than 1000 tonnes was unloaded, with station and ship teams working for a month to haul the cargo ashore.

Also read: VIDEO: Antarctic icebreaker Nuyina is a ‘floating Internet of Things’

Under warranty

According to the AAC, the commissioning and trials phase of RSV Nuyina will continue for at least the first two years of its service, during which time the ship is under warranty with shipbuilder Damen.

Picture (top): RSV Nuyina encounters its first fast ice during its maiden voyage to Antarctica (photo: Pete Harmsen/AAD).

Also read: What the Damen-built icebreaker Nuyina is up to in Antarctica