“RSV Nuyina”, which delivers supplies to Australia’s three Antarctic stations and conducts critical climate research, is docked at Macquarie Quay in Hobart. The petrol station at Self’s Point is a short distance up and the Tasman Bridge is in between. Tasmanian Ports Authority DaSports refused passage, fearing the 160m vessel would be too large to fit under the bridge.
TasPorts announced that passing under the Tasman Bridge would only be possible after tests and simulation drives were completed. The refusal comes despite DaSports being given conditional permission to go under the Tasman Bridge in February 2022 after “extensive and careful risk assessments”. TasPorts boss Anthony Donald backtracked shortly afterwards, explaining that the authority was obliged to “guarantee the highest safety standards in maritime transport”.
Memories of 1975
According to Tasmanian Harbor Master Michael Wall, the final decision was made a few weeks ago. Wall justified the ban to the ABC television station by saying that the angle of slip was too great for the ship to pass safely through the narrow abutments of the Tasman Bridge.
Wall said they didn’t want to risk the bridge collapsing in 1975. Then, a cargo vehicle hit the bridge, causing the bridge to partially collapse. 7 crew members and 5 people died when the vehicles fell from the bridge.
Environment, time and money
The department responsible for Antarctic research of the Australian Environment Department (AAD) confirmed to the daily newspaper “Guardian” that the “RSV Nuyina” was not granted a transit permit. To refuel, the icebreaker now has to travel 364 nautical miles (about 674 kilometers), instead of two nautical miles (about four kilometers) to Burney on the island state’s northwest coast. It will remain the same for now.
As it stands, Wall said, the ban is a permanent decision. Two to four refuelings are required per sailing season. However, Wall says that while “we are aware of the fact that AAD costs time and money,” the risk to the bridge is too high. AAD’s statement said it was working with the Tasmanian government on long-term refueling options for the research vessel in Hobart.
Greens senator Peter Wish-Wilson said: “It’s incredibly frustrating.” The refueling of the RSV Nuina, hundreds of kilometers from its home port, will not only have an impact on the environment, but will also fund research projects in Antarctica. So Wish Wilson. Earlier this year, AAD took $25 million off its annual budget.
The roadblock is the latest setback for the ship’s so-called “Disneyland for scientists.” Again and again it had to contend with complications and lengthy repairs, which led to the cancellation of research expeditions. It was only earlier this year that AAD chief scientist Nicole Webster confirmed that the Antarctic expedition to study the melting ice “will no longer be undertaken due to complications with RSV Nuina”.
The delivery of the Romanian-built icebreaker has already been delayed for more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Ahead of Hobart’s arrival in October 2021, the $528 million ship suffered mechanical problems on its first 47-day voyage to Australia. At the end of December 2021, it began its first Antarctic voyage. Most recently, the “RSV Nuyina” underwent lengthy repairs in a dry dock in Singapore and returned to Hobart only in April.
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