WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The New Zealand Defence Force has issued a request for information on design and build solutions for an eventual ice-strengthened offshore patrol vessel that the Royal New Zealand Navy would operate in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic’s Ross Sea for at least four months per year.

Independent defense consultant Gordon Crane told Defense News that several ship-building companies are likely to respond to the RFI, including Dutch company Damen and Fincantieri subsidiary Vard Group. Though its parent company is Italian, Vard has its headquarters in Norway.

“Both have supplied similar ships to western navies for Arctic and Antarctic duties. The former recently delivered a 526-foot [160-meter] icebreaker to Australia, and the latter company has supplied ships for Arctic duties to the coast guard[s] and navies of the U.K., U.S. and Canada and in the Southern Hemisphere to Chile and South Africa, plus the RNZN’s existing offshore patrol vessels,” Crane said.

“Their expertise in providing ships capable of operating in polar regions gives them a distinct advantage,” Crane added.

The RFI anticipates the ship will be 295-377 feet in length, with accommodations for 100 people, including 60 crew members, 30 scientific staff and a military helicopter flight crew of 10. The RFI cautions that the ship will traverse “one of the roughest seas in the world.” Waves in the region regularly exceed 33 feet and some are more than 66 feet high.

To be capable of at least 16 knots, the vessel, equipped with a hangar, is required to travel 12,000 nautical miles at an average speed of 14 knots without having to refuel.

Roles will include research, search and rescue, maritime interdiction, and maritime resupply to the Auckland Islands and other sub-Antarctic islands.

The closing date for submissions is June 14, 2021, and enquiries can be directed to southernoceanpatrolvessel@defence.govt.nz.