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Council of Science and Humanities recommends building of Polarstern II

The Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research welcomes the recommendation of the Council of Science and Humanities to build a new research icebreaker, Polarstern II. The body announced the result of its last session in Berlin. The new vessel could go into operation in 2016 and replace the research vessel Polarstern in the medium term. The estimated costs are approx. 450 million euros. "We are very pleased that the project was assessed positively," states Prof. Karin Lochte, Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute in the Helmholtz Association, which operates the RV Polarstern.

"The Polarstern is the Alfred Wegener Institute's most important instrument. We need a reliable research platform so we can continue our work in the polar regions. The recommendation for a new research icebreaker comes at just the right time as climate change has an exceptionally pronounced impact in the Arctic and Antarctica," adds Lochte. The present Polarstern will be over 30 years old when it is replaced.

The scientific coordinator for RV Polarstern, Dr. Eberhard Fahrbach from the Alfred Wegener Institute, describes the great need for vessel time in the Arctic and Antarctica: "For many expeditions there are applications from two to three times more researchers than we can accommodate." In addition, by supplying Neumayer Station III and other Antarctic stations, the Polarstern performs important logistics tasks that have to be included in voyage planning.

In the next step the Alfred Wegener Institute will submit an application to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research to be able to draw up documents suitable as invitations to tender. "There are already design studies on Polarstern II considering the logistic and scientific aspects," says Dr. Uwe Nixdorf, head of the Logistics Department at the Alfred Wegener Institute. Scientific and shipbuilding-oriented working groups composed of researchers, nautical experts and technicians from German marine research institutions have compiled these requirements.

The recommendation of the Council of Science and Humanities also encompasses an operation time extension for Polarstern I so as to enable increased research in the polar regions strongly impacted by climate change. The Alfred Wegener Institute will therefore examine what urgent overhaul measures are necessary for the present Polarstern in case its operation is required in polar regions for a few more years as presently planned.

According to the recommendation, the future of the four medium-sized research vessels which also include RV Heincke will be coupled to the decision regarding a successor for RV Poseidon. Poseidon is the oldest of the medium-sized vessels still in service,. To further develop the European project Aurora Borealis (research icebreaker with drilling capability), more partners would have to agree to financing.

Among other things, the German Council of Science and Humanities discussed the development of the German research fleet at its meeting in Lbeck from 10 to 12 November. The objective was to provide recommendations on the overall strategy for shipbuilding activities required in the future and at the same time develop guidelines for financing construction and operation of the research fleet.


Contact: Margarete Pauls
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres

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