The UK Royal Navy’s sole ice patrol ship HMS Protector (A173) is back at sea after a £14m ten-month revamp to enhance her ability to work in Antarctica, the service announced.
The vessel left Teesside after the biggest and longest overhaul during her ten-year career under the White Ensign. The work carried out by UK Docks and the ship’s company since last March will mean the ship is better at breaking ice, can carry more equipment and supplies to support British and international scientists researching the frozen continent, and has improved facilities for the crew.
Protector spent five months out of the water and was originally due to emerge from refit in the autumn, before heading south to update maritime charts of Antarctic waters using her hi-tech suite of sensors, as well as conducting scientific research alongside civilian experts. The revamp proved to be more comprehensive and demanding than originally anticipated which means the ship sailed three months later than planned. The delay was primarily due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The refit work consisted of overhauling the engines and generators, re-covering the distinctive red/white hull with specialised paint by hand and removing the propeller shaft for inspection in Denmark before reinstalling it. The revamp has created better cargo space, a new quarter deck structure with a naval stores complex, workshop to maintain the upgraded small boats and launches Protector carries, and there’s a new gym packed latest fitness gear for the Navy sailors and Royal Marines.
The extra weight of the revamp also improved the ship’s trim which makes her better able to break ice when she needs to.
“The past ten months on Teesside have transformed HMS Protector into a Polar Class vessel, ready for operations in the ice,” said Commanding Officer Captain Michael Wood. “The ship has undergone wholesale modernisation, exceptional amounts of structural rework, and significant capability enhancement as part of this mid-life update, and all in challenging circumstances for our industry partners. And while we were unable to deploy to Antarctica this season, we will return stronger at the end of 2021.”
Ice patrol ship HMS Protector was built in Norway in mid 2000. As MV Polarbjørn, she operated under charter as a polar research icebreaker and a subsea support vessel. In 2011, the vessel was chartered as a temporary replacement for the Royal Navy ice patrol ship HMS Endurance and was purchased by the British Ministry of Defence in early September 2013.