L'Astrolabe icebreaker Review and Specifications
Specifications of L'Astrolabe icebreaker
|Year built||2017 new ship|
|Builder||CRIST (Gdynia Poland), Chantiers Piriou (Concarneau France)|
|Class||French diesel icebreaker|
|Building cost||EUR 50 million (USD 54 million)|
|Operator||French Navy, TAAF (French Southern and Antarctic Lands), IPEV (French Polar Institute Paul-Émile Victor)|
|Speed||12 kn / 22 kph / 14 mph|
|Length (LOA)||72 m / 236 ft|
|Beam (width)||16 m / 52 ft|
Review of L'Astrolabe icebreaker
L'Astrolabe is a French icebreaker specifically designed for operations in Antarctica. This is an icebreaking polar logistics (supply) vessel serving France's Dumont d'Urville Station (scientific station) in Adelie Land, Antarctica. The launched in 2017 new L'Astrolabe icebreaker replaced the old namesake (1986-built) ship owned by P&O Maritime Services (France).
The ship's construction was started in June 2015, after France's ministry of overseas territories awarded the shipbuilding contract to Chantiers Piriou (shipyard in Concarneau, France). The vessel's design (by Aker Arctic, Finland) is based on a concept developed by Marine Assistance (France-based naval architecture company). The ship is state-owned and co-operated by TAAF ("French Southern and Antarctic Lands), IPEV (Paul-Emile Victor polar institute) and also by the French Navy.
As the shipbuilder Chantiers Piriou had no previous know-how of building an icebreaker, the company subcontracted the Finnish company Aker Arctic to develop the design and do model testing.
The Chantiers Piriou shipyard serves almost exclusively French Navy projects. As the yeard was fully booked with orders, after signing the shipbuilding contract it subcontracted the CRIST shipyard in Gdynia (Poland) for constructing the vessel's hull. Construction works started on December 16, 2015. The vessel's floating out from drydock was on December 22, 2016. Then it was towed to Chantiers Piriou shipyard for outfitting.
L'Astrolabe icebreaker's itinerary program started with the ship's deployment from Europe to Indian Ocean in 2017. In 2018, the ship had scheduled its first ever supply mission to Dumont d'Urville Station.
The new L'Astrolabe icebreaker delivers supplies and also carries personnel to the station leaving from Hobart (Tasmania, Australia). The ship does 5 round-trip voyages to the Antarctic base in the period November through March.
- Adelie Land (Terre Adelie) is a French Antarctic territory stretching from Antarctica's coastline along the Southern Ocean (aka Antarctic Ocean, and Austral Ocean) inland all the way to the Geographic South Pole (Earth's southernmost point). Adelie Land is only claimed by France, as most countries haven't given their diplomatic recognition.
- "French Southern and Antarctic Lands" (overseas territories) include Kerguelen Islands (southern Indian Ocean, approx equidistant between eastern Africa, Antarctica and western Australia), St Paul and Amsterdam islands (located north of the Kerguelen archipelago), Crozet Islands (Indian Ocean, located south of Madagascar), Adelie Land (Antarctica) and Scattered Islands (around Madagascar).
Dumont d'Urville Station (Antarctica)
Dumont d'Urville Station is operated by IPEV (Paul-Emile Victor institute). The Port Martin Station (France's first Antarctic research base) is approx 62 km (39 ml) to the east. It was destroyed by fire on January 23, 1952. The new (Dumont D'Urville) base was opened on January 12, 1956.
- The station serves French scientific research operations and is active (populated) the whole year-round. However, due to Ice and strong winds landings there by Zodiacs (large-capacity inflatable boats) and helicopters are often impossible.
- The base can accommodate up to 40 people at one time (during winter) and up to 120 people in the summer. Its proper functioning requires regularly scheduled logistics, especially during summer.
- One of the base's main research studies is wildlife, notably the emperor penguins nesting in the region during summer. Other species include seabirds (skuas and petrels / snow-, giant-, Cape-) nesting near the station during summer. During winter months, only emperor penguins stay there to reproduce. Marine animals presented in the region are killer whales and rorquals (baleen whales).
L'Astrolabe icebreaker vessel details
In comparison to the old L'Astrolabe icebreaker (owned by P&O Maritime Services, France), the new icebreaker is 6 m (20 ft) longer and 3 m (10 ft) wider. Its cargo capacity is 1200 tons and has staterooms for up to 60 people (including the crew). The ship aslo has a helicopter hangar located belowdecks.
The new icebreaker is powered by four Wartsila 20 marine diesel engines. Its propulsion consists of 2 shafts driving 2 controllable pitch propellers. The ship is "Bureau Veritas" classified as "Icebreaker 5 class". This class allows it to operate in 1-year old ice fields with thickness (ice-breaking capacity) up to 1,2 m (4 ft). The ship is also able to ram packed ice at 5,5 kn speed (10 kph / 6 mph).
Note: In case of poor AIS coverage, tracking the vessel's current location will be impossible. You can see the CruiseMapper's list of all icebreakers and ice-breaking research ships in the "itinerary" section of our Icebreakers hub. All states and their fleets are listed there.