STX Finland Oy and the South African Department of Environmental Affairs have signed a contract for construction of a Polar Supply and Research Vessel. The ship with a value of approximately EUR 116 million will bring some 600 man-years of work. The ship will be built in the Rauma shipyard and it will be delivered in spring 2012.
The ship will function as a multi-purpose vessel, serving, among other things, as a supply vessel, research vessel, icebreaker, expedition vessel, as well as a passenger ship. The ice-strengthened vessel will be approximately 134 metres long and it will have accommodation for a crew of 45 and some 100 researchers or passengers.
The Polar Supply and Research Vessel will be used to carry scientists and research equipment for the South African National Antarctic Programme in the sea area between South Africa, the Antarctic islands and the Antarctica. The ship can spend several months out at sea and it also acts as a mobile laboratory. Scientists can also conduct various marine research onboard the ship. The ship is classified for carrying passengers. Furthermore, the vessel keeps continuous record of weather data for meteorological institutions around the world. The vessel has a shelter and landing area for two Puma class helicopters and it will feature laboratories, a gym, a library, and a small hospital.
Mr. Timo Suistio, Director of the Rauma shipyard, says that the trade agreement is of great importance both for STX Finland's Rauma shipyard and the trade relations between Finland and South Africa in general. "This is one of the biggest individual civil trade agreements the Finnish industry has made with South Africa. Furthermore, the agreement will naturally have a positive effect on the employment at the Rauma shipyard. The design work on the new research vessel will commence immediately and the ship will enter production in September 2010. The ship will be delivered to the Owner, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, in spring 2012."
Mr. Henry Valentine, Director: Antarctica and Islands, said that allocating this level of funding for the new vessel despite the current pressure on the national fiscus reflects the SA Government's commitment to the South African National Antarctic Programme. "The new ship, apart from its supply function, will be a catalyst to rebuild the deep-sea oceanography capacity in South Africa. This would also attract participation of international scientists and researchers, thus significantly contributing to research projects addressing new challenges and changing interests, for instance, climate change research."
STX Finland won, in a long and hard competition process, the building project of this new expedition ship. Of the shipyards involved in the final stage, the customer considered STX Finland's offer the best in terms of both technical solutions and price. The expertise of Finnish shipyards as builders of demanding Arctic and Antarctic vessels is well known in South Africa.