Royal Navy icebreaker resumes operational sailings following overhaul

Photo: Royal Navy

The Royal Navy’s only ice patrol ship is back at sea after a £14 million (US$19 million), ten-month revamp to enhance its ability to work in Antarctica.

HMS Protector has left Teesside after the biggest and longest overhaul during its ten-year career in navy service.

The work carried out by UK Docks and the ship’s company since March 2020 will mean the ship will be more capable of breaking ice, can carry more equipment and supplies to support British and international scientists researching the frozen continent, and has improved facilities for the crew.

The ship spent five months out of the water and was originally due to emerge from refit in the autumn, before heading south to update maritime charts of Antarctic waters using a suite of advanced sensors, as well as conducting scientific research alongside civilian experts. However, the revamp proved to be more comprehensive and demanding than originally anticipated – particularly as was carried out entirely during the pandemic – which means the ship sailed three months later than planned.

As well as the usual refit work overhauling engines, generators, re-covering the distinctive red/white hull with specialised paint by hand and removing the propeller shaft for inspection before reinstalling it – the revamp has created better cargo space, a new quarter deck structure with a naval stores complex, a workshop to maintain the upgraded small boats and launches that Protector carries, and a new gym packed with new fitness gear for the crew.

The extra weight also improves the ship’s trim, which makes it better able to break ice when needed.

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