Shortage of spare parts puts new Nuyina icebreaker out of service

Supply chain issues for shaft couplings mean new ship will likely miss a season

Nuyina (file image courtesy of Serco)

Posted on July 8, 2022 at 8:13 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive

The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) has been forced to adjust its sailing plans for the 2022-23 Antarctic season after it emerged Australia’s newest icebreaker VRS Nuyina cannot receive scheduled maintenance on time due to delays in receiving spare parts.

AAD said the icebreaker is unlikely to be in service for the upcoming season due to a delay in receiving spare parts and the discovery of more systems and mechanical issues in the vessel. futuristic, which has been heralded as the most advanced Antarctic icebreaking research and resupply in the world. boat.

RSV Nuyina has had systems and mechanical issues at least twice in the past. In October last year, the icebreaker suffered an electrical fault in the electrical system which powers a propulsion motor on the port shaft line during its journey to its home port of Hobart. Two months later, the ship was forced to delay its first Antarctic expedition after problems were detected in the ship’s alarm and monitoring system software.

The ship, which arrived in Singapore in April for scheduled maintenance at SembCorp Marine Admiralty Yard and was due to return to Hobart in October, is expected to remain at the yard for much longer due to a delay in receiving spares.

AAD, in conjunction with vessel operator Serco, admitted to resolving issues and making repairs as part of the normal commissioning process during the warranty period. The work includes improvements to the hydraulic control system in the propulsion system clutches.

“While work is progressing well on the clutches, an unexpected problem has been discovered in the large couplings that connect the drive shafts to the clutches,” said Charlton Clark, AAD’s general manager of operations and safety.

He added that following initial investigations and testing, the manufacturer has determined that the shaft couplings need to be replaced. “Delivery times for replacement fittings are long, largely due to material shortages and supply chain issues,” he said.

The resulting delay of several months means RSV Nuyina is unlikely to be available for resupply and science operations in the upcoming 2022-23 Antarctic season.

The 525ft icebreaker is expected to cost the Australian government $1.4 billion to build, maintain and operate over the next 30 years. Its delivery was delayed by about a year due to disruptions related to COVID-19.

The main mission of the ship is the research and exploration of Antarctica. It is equipped with four permanent scientific laboratories and can accommodate 20 additional containerized laboratories for specialized research projects that will evolve over the next decades. It can accommodate 117 people and 32 crew for 92 days at sea.

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

Despite initial mechanical and systems problems, the ship successfully undertook its first two voyages to Antarctica earlier this year, resupplying stations and testing science systems.

The vessel’s unavailability forced AAD to secure the services of two icebreakers, Aiviq and a reinforced ice freighter for the upcoming season to transport essential cargo and bring expeditionaries home. Aiviq, a US 110m icebreaker tug and supply vessel, had been chartered to supply and resupply stations last season and remains in Hobart for the coming season.

“The changeover dates for the 90 expeditionaries currently living and working at Australia’s four Antarctic research stations and Macquarie Island will remain substantially the same,” Clark said.

He added that planning for disruptions and contingencies is an important part of the Australian Antarctic programme, which has always planned for contingency during the RSV commissioning and warranty phase. Nuyina.

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