L’Astrolabe, a new ice-breaking vessel that will be operated by the French Navy, was delivered by shipbuilder Piriou on July 12 in Concarneau, France.
The ceremony was attended by representatives from the navy, the French Polar Institute Paul-Emile Victor (IPEV) and the Austral and Antarctic French Territories (TAAF).
Ordered in June 2015, L’Astrolabe will be formally delivered in early September in French overseas territory La Reunion island.
L’Astrolabe will be replacing two vessels once it enters service – the namesake logistic vessel L’Astrolabe (1984-2017) which was chartered by the TAAF and the IPEV to carry supplies to the French Antarctic base in the Adelie Land; and the patrol vessel Albatros (1967-2015), owned and operated by the French Navy which undertook sovereignty and patrol missions in the Southern oceans.
The 72-meter vessel was designed by Marine Assistance and developed by Aker Arctic (Finland). The logistics and patrol vessel is designed to sail continuously in ice up to 60 to 80 cm thickness and will be capable of accommodating up to 60 persons on board and carrying freight up to 1,400 tons.
L’Astrolabe will be a unit of the French Navy registered as a ‘’polar patrol vessel‘’ on the list of the naval forces.
The vessel was built within an unusual partnership between the TAAF, the IPEV and the French Navy established in 2014. This partnership relies on the creation of a public interest group (GIP) involving the TAAF (vessel owner) and the French Navy (vessel operator) under agreements with the IPEV (in charge of Antarctic logistic operations) for logistics and support to scientific bases in the Antarctic Ocean during the austral summer (120 days per year) and for French Navy sovereignty missions (245 days a year).
Piriou will be in charge of vessel operation and maintenance training for the two French Navy crews who will make rotations on board. It will also provide in-service support for the three coming years in the vessel’s homeport of La Reunion.