This spring Reederei F. Laeisz G.m.b.H. received the contract award for consulting services concerning design and construction of a future German research icebreaker. Today, Tuesday, 22 July 2014, representatives of the shipping company and the Alfred Wegener Institute additionally signed a contract for ship management in Bremerhaven.

The recent research ice breaker “Polarstern” in the Antarctic. Photo: Folke Mehrtens, AWI
The recent research ice breaker “Polarstern” in the Antarctic. Photo: Folke Mehrtens, AWI

After construction of the deep-sea research vessel Sonne a new research and supply icebreaker is the second new shipbuilding project with priority for the research fleet under the direction of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The present research icebreaker Polarstern has been in service since December 1982. 'Polarstern' has taken people and material to the Arctic and Antarctic Ocean, covering more than 1.5 million nautical miles, in over 31 years. That corresponds to a distance of over 2.7 million kilometres and thus more than 67 circumnavigations of the globe at the equator.

The recent research ice breaker “Polarstern” in the Antarctic pack ice. Photo: Folke Mehrtens, AWI
The recent research ice breaker “Polarstern” in the Antarctic pack ice. Photo: Folke Mehrtens, AWI

Thanks to good maintenance and care, 'Polarstern' is still one of the highest-performance polar research vessels in the world and spends an average of 320 days a year at sea. Reederei F. Laeisz G.m.b.H. has literally been on board for over 18 years. It took over management of RV Polarstern on 1 January 1996. “We are extremely delighted to be able to continue our successful commitment in the field of research shipping,” says Roland Pallutz, Commercial Managing Director of the shipping company. Today he and Nikolaus Schües (managing partner of Reederei F. Laeisz) along with Prof. Karin Lochte (Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute) signed the contract for management of the successor vessel to RV Polarstern as well as of the German Neumayer Station III in Antarctica for the period 2019 to 2025.

Dr Uwe Nixdorf (temp. Administrative Director, AWI), Roland Pallutz (Commercial Director, Laeisz GmbH), Professor Karin Lochte (Director, AWI), Nikolaus Schües (Chief Executive Officer).. Photo: Folke Mehrtens, AWI
Dr Uwe Nixdorf (temp. Administrative Director, AWI), Roland Pallutz (Commercial Director, Laeisz GmbH), Professor Karin Lochte (Director, AWI), Nikolaus Schües (Chief Executive Officer).. Photo: Folke Mehrtens, AWI

But even before RV Polarstern's successor goes into operation, Reederei F. Laeisz will play a special role. In the framework of a Europe-wide public tender procedure conducted by BMBF Reederei Laeisz received the contract award for consulting services regarding the shipbuilding design. The experience of the shipping company in operating icebreakers was a key factor for the contract award in the eyes of the ministry. Like the present RV Polarstern, the successor will be designed as a government-owned ship and built solely with BMBF funds.

Roland Pallutz (Commercial Director, Laeisz GmbH), Professor Karin Lochte (Director, AWI), Nikolaus Schües (Chief Executive Officer, Laeisz GmbH), Dr Uwe Nixdorf (temp. Administrative Director, AWI). Photo: Folke Mehrtens, AWI
Roland Pallutz (Commercial Director, Laeisz GmbH), Professor Karin Lochte (Director, AWI), Nikolaus Schües (Chief Executive Officer, Laeisz GmbH), Dr Uwe Nixdorf (temp. Administrative Director, AWI). Photo: Folke Mehrtens, AWI

The Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) will be responsible for operation of the future icebreaker, as in the case of RV Polarstern. The AWI coordinates polar research in Germany and chairs the committee of scientific and technical experts for the new shipbuilding project. “This committee focusses all scientific requirements concerning the equipment of the new vessel. It is thus designed to be an efficient, environmentally friendly instrument for future polar research,” says AWI Director Prof. Karin Lochte. Planning of the new ship is progressing and according to the current schedule it will be handed over to the scientific community in 2019. The next milestone will be the announcement of the tender procedure for the competition among participating shipyards in December 2014. The competition itself is slated to start at the beginning of 2015.

Source: Alfred-Wegener-Institute, www.awi.de