New Royal Navy ice patrol vessel announced

The Ministry of Defence has announced that the Icebreaker MV PolarBjorn (Polar Bear) has been selected to become the Royal Navy’s new ice patrol vessel. PolarBjorn will be re-christened HMS Protector while in Royal Navy service. The last  HMS Protector was also an antarctic patrol vessel.

Heres the spiel from Rieber’s website:

The ‘Polarbjørn’ is purpose-built for undertaking both long duration Antarctic expeditions, and offshore subsea support duties.  With her large public areas and accommodation capacities, helicopter deck and DP2 class, the vessel is well suited for undertaking flotel- and base ship functions on offshore fields and other operations. The vessel’s large deck areas and cargo holds offers ‘unlimited’ storage capacity for ROV and related equipment. The ship’s 50-ton knuckle-boom crane and the A-frame offers efficient solutions for handling equipment over the side and over the stern.

A few facts and figures about Polar Bjorn:

  • 90 metres long
  • 18 metres beam
  • 9.05 metres draught
  • Gross tonnage 4,985 tons, deadweight of 3,700 tons

She is currently owned by Rieber Shipping, and was launched in 2001. Until recently she has been working under a Norwegian flag on the ‘spot’ tendering market in the North Sea and Arctic offshore oil fields. Apparently during 2010 she was only being used 33% of the time due to the economic downturn, so her chartering by the MOD will be welcome to her owners. Official announcements by Defence Minister Lord Astor suggest that she will be leased for three years while HMS Endurance‘s fate is decided, but I would suggest that it is likely that Endurance will be scrapped and PolarBjorn/Protector purchased once the lease runs out. The same happened with HMS Endurance herself.

Amusingly, apparently members of the HMS Protector Association had known about the acquisition since January, but had been sworn to secrecy by the ship’s new CO, Captain Peter Sparkes. The Association’s newsletter also announces that she will be formally commisioned on 23 June 2011 in Portsmouth.

According to some sources she will be arriving in Portsmouth for the first time in April or May. At that point she will undergo a refit to install naval equipment, such as communications and limited weaponry. Apparently her up-front helicopter deck is going to be removed, and a new landing pad installed nearer her stern. This will probably necessitate the removal of some of her crane capability, which she will probably not use fully in RN service in any case. She will also need a hangar, given the manner in which she will operate independently in the ice.

The former ice patrol ship HMS Endurance is being withdrawn from service after suffering serious damage when she flooded in the South Atlantic in 2008. Since then the Offshore patrol vessel HMS Scott has been standing-in in the South Atlantic, but this is far from ideal as she is not an ice-breaker, and takes her away from her other role.

It will be good to see a new ship entering Portsmouth for a change.



Filed under defence, Falklands War, Navy, News, Uncategorized

27 responses to “New Royal Navy ice patrol vessel announced

  1. John Erickson

    Okay, Mr. Daly, I need your help here. What’s an “ice patrol vessel”? As opposed to an ice-breaker? I’m assuming from the lack of stats for flooding the deck or forward mounted screws, that it’s intended more for supply with some breaking capability, as opposed to primarily breaking.
    Nice to see some relatively new blood in the fleet!

    • x

      An ice breaker is for ensuring a navigation is free from ice. An ice patrol vessel is just an RN term for the vessel that spends its time in the Antarctic during the summer supporting British scientific missions and basically “defending” Her Majesty’s sovereignty over her southern possessions.

      • John Erickson

        “Show the flag, bring the grub.” Got it, X, thanks much. And that explains why my US Navy info sites didn’t seem to know what that was.
        I assume you are aware of “SpringSharp”, a neat little warship building program? Primarily intended for gun warships from 1850-1950, but could be used to “do it yourself”. Let me know if you need more info. 🙂

        • x

          No I am sorry you have lost me there.

        • John Erickson

          Oh boy, now it’s MY turn to be excited! Go to It lets you build conventional warships (guns – like Hood or KGV) in any size and year. You lay out the hull size, freeboard, weapons (including AAA and torps), armour, and speed and range. There’s 2 versions, v2.2 and a beta, v3.0? (I don’t remember, sorry). The v3 is FAR easier to work with, though if you’re a REAL numbers geek (it was too much for me), you can use the v2.2. For guns data, I recommend For ships, data site quality varies by country. The download is free, it gives you some famous examples (QE, Hood, and Bismarck, I think), and if you find bugs in beta, there are 2 brothers behind it who will get back to you (eventually, one is nobody-knows-where, the other is going full time for a doctorate). I can also send you links for various warship discussion boards, though I’d suggest we take that off poor James’ board. Enjoy! 😀

          • James Daly

            Dear oh dear I’d better keep away from that, I’ve got a book to write and a girlfriend to keep happy!…

          • x

            Now that is interesting. Thank you John.

            I shall have to see if WINE lets play with it in Linux.

          • John Erickson

            I think SpringSharp lets you run under Linux. If I recall correctly, it’s C-based (whatever the latest version is). There’s a fair amount of information at the site. If you can’t get it to work, let me know and I’ll check with a couple friends who’ve been using it FOREVER! And the program accepts Imperial or metric measures, you’re choice. So those insane fools stuck with that bizarre metr…. um .. METHOD of feet and inches can use it as well as those who have joined the Metric Militia. 😉

    • Erling

      Seen late afternoon May 17th in the northern part of Great Belt in Denmark and heading for Bergen Iaw. its AIS transmssion

  2. x

    So that explains why on the Polar Bear’s wiki page somebody had already said about her becoming possibly the new Protector. Super.

    We had been speculating about helicopters over at ThinkDefence.

    Personally I think it is a mistake to remove the above bridge flight deck unless it interferes with aerials. An extra flight deck is an extra flight deck! It isn’t doing anybody any harm. Imagine the fun Clubs good have with PE sessions on the upper flight deck. 🙂

    Lots of space for modification. I think before adding a hangar they should look to see if they can move the uptakes/intakes for the engines. If you look they all go out on the portside. If one set could be trunked across to starboard then the hangar door could fit between. Very tiddly.

    All good clean fun. I am quite excited. Does it show? 🙂

  3. A rare bit of good news.


    I imagine that the flight deck will be moved, as naval radar and communications (and a LIMITED weapon fit) will be needed, as will a hangar for the helicopter(s).

  5. Roy Felton

    It is nice to hear the MV Polar Bjorn will be going to the Ice, for what she is built for.I worked on this ship in 2005 for Rieber Shipping A/S Norway as a Crane Operator in the North Sea,she is a fine Vessel but not the best I have been on in Rough weather.Good Luck to her and her new Crew for the future in Antartic waters.

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