The countdown has begun for the transportation of the new Scott Base research station to Antarctica. The vessel, which will be used for the delivery, has been booked for January 2027 – precisely 70 years after the establishment of the original base in 1957.
Antarctica New Zealand and Leighs Construction Ltd have partnered with global logistics companies BigLift Shipping and Mammoet to transport the prefabricated base 3720km across the Southern Ocean to the ice.
The new base is expected to ensure New Zealand’s scientific research program and presence in Antarctica for another 50+ years. The transport will be carried out by BigLift Shipping, using an MC-Class Vessel, specifically designed to operate in remote and inaccessible areas, such as Antarctica.
The vessel will sail from PrimePort Timaru to Pram Point, Ross Island, with the prefabricated base, which will be divided into eight modules, each weighing about 800 metric tonnes. Mammoet’s self-propelled modular transporters (SPMTs) will be used to move the modules onto and off the ship in both Timaru and Antarctica.
The installation process will prioritize safety and operational redundancy, ensuring that the method used is as robust as possible. This landmark voyage will echo New Zealand’s Antarctic history, as the original Scott Base was also constructed using prefabricated buildings, delivered on the HMNZS Endeavour in 1957.
The MC-Class Vessel is designed specifically as an ice-strengthened heavy module carrier to operate in areas that are remote and difficult to reach, such as Antarctica. BigLift Shipping’s Commercial and Business Development Manager, Mark van den Berg, expressed satisfaction with the company’s contract for the ocean transportation of the modules required for the new Scott Base.
The 20,675t,173m vessel will sail directly to Pram Point, the location of Scott Base, bypassing the usual offload point at the United States’ McMurdo Station, making it the first ship of this size to moor at Aotearoa’s only Antarctic station. Mammoet’s self-propelled modular transporters (SPMTs) will be responsible for moving the new base onto and off the ship in Timaru and Antarctica. The three interconnected buildings will be separated into eight modules, each weighing about 800 metric tonnes, which will be sealed and welded onto the vessel for the journey.
The installation process prioritizes safety and operational redundancy, according to Mammoet’s Global Segment Lead of Transport and Logistics, Reinder de Haan. “The versatile SPMTs have tremendous power, yet can be maneuvered with millimeter precision so that each section of the new station will be perfectly aligned when we set it down”, he says.
The first chartered vessel for the project, BigLift’s Happy Delta, arrived in McMurdo Sound last month to deliver around 870,000kg of cargo for the redevelopment. “Delivery of heavy plant and machinery is a major milestone for the project. After years of design and planning, it is great to be moving into the most exciting phase of the project for Leighs Construction – the physical works,” says Leighs Construction Project Director Iain Miller.
The United States Antarctic Program and the New Zealand Defence Force provided assistance in offloading infrastructure, machinery, and equipment at McMurdo Station. To minimize any adverse environmental impacts during the redevelopment, a comprehensive environmental monitoring program is currently underway. Construction of the new base will commence in mid-2023 at PrimePort Timaru, and the project will have three and a half years to build, test, and commission the new base before its journey to the south.