The Chilean Navy will have one of the most modern icebrakers in south America

Jan 16, 2023 | News

This ship, the first in Latin America, was initiated in 2017, under the mandate of President Michelle Bachelet, who on May 9th of that year attended the plate cutting ceremony that marked the beginning of the construction of this polar ship. The replacement planning of its predecessor of the same name was due to the compliance of the useful life deadline.

During its last years, this Unit experienced logistical obsolescence, so the Chilean Navy evaluated various prototypes, opting for the modern and integral design presented by the Canadian company VARD Marine. Forging this icebreaker of the Navy in Chile meant the boost of a formidable increase in the industrial capabilities of ASMAR Talcahuano, and although the shipyard has built ships since 1960, the construction of an Antarctic Project implied the modernization and increase of the capabilities in a significant way, since it had to update its infrastructure completing a powerful investment program that gave the shipyard cranes and cars capable of moving structures of up to 180 tons, renewed the cutting and bending systems of steels and improved the construction by blocks (in modules that already contain the main equipment and pipes inside).

“The high-profile work that this ship generated boosts the region and the shipbuilding in Chile; for us it is to project the interests that the State of Chile has through the construction of this great icebreaker,” says Captain of Ship Juan Cristóbal Méndez, manager of the Asmar Talcahuano plant.

The construction was governed by international ISO standards, among which are ISO 9001:2015, related to quality management to improve its processes, products and services; ISO 14000, linked to reducing environmental impact. This normativity is part of the Quality Management System of ASMAR. The total investment is USD 221,362 million and the Polar PC5 type vessel has 111 meters in length and a beam of 21 meters.

The design of the hull and its propulsive power allow it to navigate at a speed of 3 knots, breaking through a layer of ice 1 meter thick and 20 cm of snow, being able to maintain its operations with temperatures up to -30 °C, with ice up to 1 year of formation with multi-year ice inclusions. In the construction of this advanced icebreaker “Almirante Viel” worked around 800 people, of which 650 are professionals from ASMAR and 150 external. This meant that, from the design to the launch, different sectors of the academic field were involved through agreements with universities of the country and cooperation alliances, which allowed technical high school students to be integrated as students in practice.

Its infrastructure allows to transport 120 people, of which 86 are crew and 34 scientists. In open waters, the icebreaker can navigate at a speed of 15 knots, reaching a maximum of 18 knots in open sea. These design conditions allow it to navigate to Alexander Island (SW of the Antarctic Peninsula) between the months of November and June.

It has hospital equipment, 2 rescue and lifeboats and can embark up to 2 medium Super Puma helicopters, this in accordance with one of its operation roles: Search and Rescue (SAR). “This ship has a tremendous amount of sensors and acoustic equipment that will allow it to carry out its oceanographic and scientific research tasks, which take it to a higher level of complexity, along with a reinforced structure to break the ice, and that is added to the magnitude of the ship which has 7,000 tons of weight and when it is loaded it will be 10,000. It’s a floating city, that has all the systems so that the crew can work comfortably in very extreme climates,” adds Alan Neumann, head of Naval Architecture Specialty at Asmar Talcahuano.

The icebreaker “Almirante Viel” has sediment and macrobiology, microbiology, chemical laboratories, a room for planning and information processing, refrigerated and frozen compartments for scientific samples.

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