Antarctic voyage echoes history

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Antarctica New Zealand and Registered Master Builders Leighs Construction Ltd are joining forces with global logistics companies BigLift Shipping.
Antarctica New Zealand and Registered Master Builders Leighs Construction Ltd are joining forces with global logistics companies BigLift Shipping.

The countdown is on! The specialist ship that will deliver the new Scott Base research station to Antarctica has been booked for January 2027 – exactly 70 years after the original base opened in 1957.


Antarctica New Zealand and Registered Master Builders Leighs Construction Ltd are joining forces with global logistics companies BigLift Shipping and Mammoet to transport New Zealand’s new research station 3720km across the Southern Ocean to the Antarctic ice.

Antarctica New Zealand project director for the Scott Base Redevelopment Jon Ager says the new base will safeguard New Zealand’s world-leading scientific research programme and presence in Antarctica for another 50-plus years.

“We’re delighted to be working with Leighs Construction to harness the knowledge and expertise of BigLift Shipping and Mammoet. These companies have a wealth of experience on complex projects in challenging environments”, he says.

BigLift Shipping will sail the prefabricated base from PrimePort Timaru, New Zealand, to Pram Point, Ross Island, on the back of an MC-Class Vessel in four years’ time.

Construction will begin at PrimePort Timaru in mid-2023, allowing three and a half years to build, test and commission the new base before its journey south. The landmark voyage will echo New Zealand’s Antarctic history: the original Scott Base consisted of prefabricated buildings delivered on the HMNZS Endeavour when the research station was established.

State-of-the-art heavy module carrier

The MC-Class Vessel is an ice-strengthened heavy module carrier, specifically designed to operate in remote and inaccessible areas such as Antarctica.

BigLift Shipping commercial and business development manager Mark van den Berg says BigLift Shipping is pleased to be contracted for the ocean transportation of the modules for the new Scott Base.

“We look forward to working with all partners of the Scott Base Redevelopment to make this interesting and challenging project a success,” he says.

The 20,675mt, 173m vessel will bypass the usual offload point at the United States’ McMurdo Station and sail directly to Pram Point where Scott Base is situated. It’ll be the first time that a ship of this size will moor at New Zealand’s only Antarctic station.

Mammoet’s self-propelled modular transporters (SPMTs) will move the new base onto the ship in Timaru and off again in Antarctica.

The three interconnected buildings will be separated into eight modules (each about 800 metric tonnes), sealed, and welded onto the vessel for the journey.

Mammoet Global Segment Lead of Transport and Logistics Reinder de Haan says the installation method is as robust as possible, with the highest priority given to safety and operational redundancy.

“The versatile SPMTs have tremendous power, yet can be manoeuvred with millimetre precision so that each section of the new station will be perfectly aligned when we set it down,” he says.

Supply mission complete

The first chartered vessel for the project, BigLift’s Happy Delta, arrived in McMurdo Sound last month to deliver around 870,000kg of cargo for the redevelopment.

“Delivery of heavy plant and machinery is a major milestone for the project. After years of design and planning, it is great to be moving into the most exciting phase of the project for Leighs Construction — the physical works,” Leighs Construction project director Iain Miller says.

Infrastructure, machinery and equipment were offloaded at McMurdo Station with the support of the United States Antarctic Program and the New Zealand Defence Force.

A comprehensive environmental monitoring programme is underway to ensure any impacts to the environment are minimised through the redevelopment.

Find more information about the project at www.scottbaseredevelopment.govt.nz.

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