The Government has approved the purchase of a new naval tanker for the New Zealand Defence Force which will be ice-strengthened and winterised for operations in Antarctica, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says.
The project will cost $493 million and will support a full range of NZDF deployments, including maritime sustainment and humanitarian and disaster relief operations.
The vessel will be built by South Korean firm Hyundai Heavy Industries and is expected to be delivered in 2020.
It replaces the 30-year-old tanker HMNZS Endeavour, which currently provides fuel to Royal New Zealand Navy and other partner nations’ ships and embarked helicopters, and supplies fuel and fresh water to support land operations.
Mr Brownlee says the new tanker will undertake a similar role.
“The Defence Force can’t operate without fuel, water, ammunition and other bulk goods, and the most effective way to deliver fuel to ships, aircraft and vehicles deployed overseas is by tanker.
“This vessel will be significantly larger, will be able to refuel two ships at a time while underway, carry and refuel Defence Force helicopters, produce and store water, and store and transport bulk goods.
“The Government has also opted to include ice-strengthening and winterisation features, representing a very useful enhanced capability when compared to the current tanker.
“This will allow it to deliver fuel and other goods to support Scott Base and McMurdo Station, during summer months once an icebreaker has cleared a path.
“It is important that New Zealand has a significant asset capable of supporting our presence in Antarctica and our interests in the Southern Ocean more generally.
“It will increase New Zealand’s contribution and help further demonstrate our long-term commitment to the Antarctic Joint Logistics Pool with the United States,” Mr Brownlee says.
The recently-released Defence White Paper placed greater emphasis than previous White Papers on protection of Southern Ocean resources and supporting New Zealand’s civilian presence in Antarctica.
HMNZS Endeavour is due to retire in 2018.