The US Maritime Administration (MARAD) and National Science Foundation have signed a Memorandum of Agreement to collaborate on the creation of a new Polar Research Vessel (PRV). In addition to enhanced icebreaking capabilities, the vessel will be acoustically quiet, possess environmentally sensitive design features, comply with International Maritime Organization guidelines for Arctic vessels, accommodate 50 scientists, and have an 80-day endurance. MARAD’s role is to provide technical expertise related to the vessel’s design as well as oversight of vessel construction. The initial design of the Polar Research Vessel was recently released together with the cost estimates.
An analysis of the many scientific requirements (moon pool, station keeping, towing of nets, instruments) and operational requirements (low power open water transit and high power ice-breaking) led to the selection of a diesel-electric propulsion plant with podded propulsors. The diesel-electric propulsion plant consists of four main diesel-generator sets, two of 8,046 HP and two of 6,785 HP with a total brake power of 29,600 HP (22 MW). This configuration was selected because it provides great flexibility as it relates to the physical arrangement on the vessel as well as varying electric power demands.
All electrical service loads including propulsors, bow thruster, winches, cranes, light and other general ship service needs are powered from a common bus/integrated electric system. Propulsors on the PRV take the form of two azimuth propeller pods. Each pod contains an 11,200 HP (8.4 MW) electric motor driving a pulling propeller. They are independently steerable through 360 degrees and provide superior maneuverability in ice and open water (station keeping) without rudders. Each pod drives one stainless steel four-bladed open fixed-pitch propeller measuring 17.8 ft (5.4 m) in diameter. This large propeller rotates at a slow speed and ensures low noise in open water and high thrust for icebreaking.