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Background  —  Armed Icebreaker / OPV  —  Norway’s K/V Svalbard

Update: On 09 July 2007, PM Harper announced that six to eight Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships would be bought for $3.1B (+ $4.3B for mtx).

According to press reports, the Federal Cabinet gave approval to proceed with the ‘definition’ phase of procurement for six new “corvette-sized Arctic patrol vessels”.  The vessel in question is the K/V Svalbard,
a Norwegian coast guard [1]  icebreaker and  offshore patrol vessel.  As its name suggests, the Svalbard was designed to operate in the icy Barents Sea. [2]  Svalbard lies at roughly the same latitude as Ellesmere Island  but  the Arctic conditions are less severe. Nevertheless, the Svalbard is considered  the most ice-capable ship in Norwegian service.  It can handle 1m thick ice, and  was designed to operate as a tug (right),
a landing pad for large helicopters, and icebreaking patrol.

As a militarized coast guard ship, Svalbard performs armed patrols along with  the traditional coast guard functions  –  maritime search and rescue (below) and supporting scientific research (Arctic and fisheries ). Though not designed with scientific work in mind, the design requirements for an icebreaker overlapped with those of  the scientists. [3]

An example is Svalbard’s position-keeping capabilities. Scientists studying sea ice appreciate this but  the 360° azimuthing thrusters were chosen for their icebreaking potential. [4]  Likewise, the large flight deck and hangar provide storage space but springs from the requirement to accomodate larger helicopters landing-on should it be necessary (eg: SAR – easily imaginable in a Canadian context - or  problems with offshore oil rig flights ).  From a military point of view, Svalbard’s armament is quite modest. To give ship-to-shore fire support, a 76mm gun could  be substituted on CF patrol ships. This may be gilding the lily. The real value of Arctic patrol is sovereignty-through-presence rather than improbable gunboat diplomacy.

  Specifications:   K/V Svalbard  (W303)  Icebreaker / OPV
  Class:   DNV  +1A1,  Polar 10  icebreaker,  RPSF-A
  Dimensions:   103m long (oa) x 19.1m beam x 6.5m draught
  Displacement:   6300 t (full load, other sources say 6500 t) [5]
  Complement:   48 crew  ( +  helicopter det. 4 / up to 75 pax )
  Propulsion:
  (Thrusters)
  2 x  5 MW Azipod 360° azimuthing thrusters,
  2 x  2180 kW Brunvoll FU-100 bow thrusters
  Main Engines:   4 x  3390 kW R-R Bergen BRG-8 diesels [6]
  Speed/Towing:   17.5 knots  ( 32.4 km/h ) /  up to 100,000 t
  Armament:
 

  1  x  Bofors 57mm L/70 main gun,  space
  for Mistral anti-aircraft missile launcher

  Aircraft:
 
  2 x 5-t helicopters accomodated in hangar,
  normally 1 x Westland Lynx Mk58 carried
  Cargo handling:   12-tonne Hydralift crane (after deck)

Also see New Icebreakers Should be Given to the Coast Guard not the Navy from the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.

[1] Svalbard is an Aker design built by Langsten AS  –  hull at Tangen Verft, Kragerø,  fitting out  by Langsten at Tomrefjorden, Romsdal. She was launched in Feb. 2001, certified under civilian DNV ( Det Norske Veritas ) standards, and  entered Kystvakten service in mid-2002.
[2] Atlantic currents keep Svalbard warmer. In winter, the average temperature is -12°C. Ellesmere’s Feb. average is -28°C (Eureka’s -38°C).
[3] Svalbard was the first vessel in 10 years designed from the outset for Kystvakt  (Norwegian coast guard ) service and it was designed to civilian standards.  But Kystvakt is part of the Norwegian navy and Svalbard a military ship. As such,  it is not ideal for scientific work. Experience with CCGS Amundsen  has shown that scientific expeditions are an effective way to establish Arctic sovereignty.  It behooves Canadian designer to pay attention to the special winches, laboratory containers, and equipment used for Arctic research from the outset.
[4] The Azipods used on Svalbard obviate the need for rudders. There is a vague similarity to the Z-drives of the Kingston classs MCDV. However, the Azipod are stand-alone propulsion pods.  All that is required is a power cable from the machinery room back to the Azipods.
[5] On 10 July 2007, the Globe & Mail reported a length of 100m and 3000 tonne displacement for A/OPS. If accurate, this length is about right for Svalbard but the displacement less than half of that vessel. Based on the Svalbard, this would represent a major design revision.
[6] The engines are by Ulstein Bergen, now part of Rolls-Royce Marine. The power output quoted is the maximum continuous rating.  Not mentioned is a auxiliary power unit for use in harbours consisting of  a 1070 kW Volvo Penta diesel driving a 1340 kVa Stamford generator.