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Polar Queen: one step ahead with navigational electronics

The recent christening of M/V Polar Queen in Bergen Harbor, Norway, heralded yet another chapter in the story of innovative ship development for which Reiber Shipping A/S has become renowned. Not only is the vessel remarkable in having been custom-designed to provide genuine versatility, but like another celebrated Reiber creation, Polar Circle (now renamed HMS Endurance), she is being used as the first major test of an important step forward in navigational electronics.

With vast experience in icebreaking operations as well as seismic survey work for the oil industry, Rieber has attempted to produce a multi-purpose ship which will cater to every eventuality in both fields. "It is obvious that the expertise gained over many years has been built into the new vessel to make Polar Queen an extremely flexible and efficient working platform, both for Antarctic support and offshore survey," commented Rieber Managing Director Sven Rong in an interview with MR/EN.

This latest delivery by the Kvaerner Kleven Leirvik yard which, according to Mr. Rong, was on time and to a high standard, is to Reiber's own design and measures 262 ft. (80 m) long overall, with a beam of 56 ft. (17 m), and an icebreaking draft of 21 ft. (6.35 m). The vessel is equipped with a comprehensive suite of research laboratories and facilities for seabed mapping, cable laying, pipeline route surveying and full offshore exploration support. In addition, there is 3,000 cu. m. of under deck cargo capacity and ROV support provision. Mr. Rong believes this to be the first purpose-built ROV support ship for many years. "I am certain that the market will welcome a vessel which meets all the modern safety, damage stability and redundancy requirements," he said.

A Norcontrol "BridgeLine" 2020 integrated bridge system — comprising two ARPA radars and an ECDIS — dominates the wheelhouse. Other electronic equipment includes: Simrad 701 Mk II DP system; Trimble GPS; Robertson pilot; two Anschiitz gyros; Furuno weatherfax; Inmarsat B and C; Simrad Hydrographic echosounder; and Furuno sonar. More significantly, however, Polar Queen follows the innovative precedent set by Polar Circle, which was provided with the maiden commercial ECDIS installation. Part of a fully comprehensive dynamic positioning package supplied by Simrad is the first-ever application of the Simrad HiPAP High Precision Acoustic Positioning system. Simrad's Morten Berntsen explained the principles. "In pipeline surveying and other detailed seabed navigation, there is a requirement for very accurate positioning of underwater vehicles. Advanced sensors, for use in seabed mapping and other underwater purposes, are installed on these vehicles, but the sensor data is worthless if it cannot be referred to geographical positions. The Simrad HiPAP is a new and improved product for underwater positioning from a vessel, with the best possible accuracy up to 6,500 ft. (2,000 m) in depth. It comprises hull mounted transducers with controlling electronics, software and operator machine interface. Two-way acoustic pulses are sent through the water giving the system a level of accuracy four times better than anything else currently available. A three dimensional position is calculated from the angle and range measurements, automatically compensating for the vessel's roll and pitch." According to Mr. Berntsen, this is achieved by importing information into the system algorithms from a new breed of highly accurate Seatex motion reference units.

The ship's main propulsion machinery consists of a pair of Ulstein Bergen BRG-6 marine diesels, each developing 2,650 kW, driving a single Ulstein CP propeller through a Tacke gearbox. The vessel has two 600-kW Brunvoll transverse thrusters at the stern, another pair at the bow, and an 800-kW retractable azimuth thruster. During sea trials the vessel achieved a maximum speed of 15.2 knots which was more than eight percent better than expected. According to Mr.

Rong's predictions, this will improve the fuel consumption to around 9.5 tons per day at the service speed of 12 knots. Electrical power is provided by two 2,200-kW van Kaick shaft generators and a pair of 590-kW Mitsubishi auxiliaries.

The vessel carries two Harding lifeboats, a Norsafe Magnum 750 rigid inflatable MOB craft, and eight RFD survival rafts, each with a capacity of 20. Four Norlift cranes, one dedicated to ROV activities, have also been installed. The aft helideck (approved for Super Puma AS 332L) is located above the research deck area, which has direct access to both wet and dry laboratories. The vessel features 69 berths in 26 cabins with accommodations for 11 crew members in single cabins.

Provisions for comfort onboard include a gymnasium and sauna, in addition to the normal dining, day room and hospital facilities As of the beginning of October, Polar Queen was on final sea and dynamic positioning trials under the command of Peter Brandal, one of Norway's most experienced captains in arctic conditions. Upon completion of these final trials, the vessel sails for Bremerhaven in Northern Germany to load equipment for the German Geomaud expedition to Queen Maud Land in Antarctica, picking up the scientists, helicopters, and remaining stores in Cape Town, South Africa, which will be the vessel's temporary home base. After transporting the shore-based research team, the vessel will also carry out separate ocean exploration projects for the BGR Hannover Group and the Alfred Wagner Institute. This latter work involves preliminary seismic surveys prior to an ocean drilling program.

A busy and varied first season's activity for Polar Queen appears to justify the Rieber concept. "Our intention was to build a cost-effective vessel able to combine transport and research, thereby saving on the scientific institutions' shrinking budgets," Mr. Rong said. "Furthermore, she will be back in Europe in April 1996 ready for the North Sea peak season for bottom survey work."




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