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Southern Ocean Patrol Vessel

This project will deliver an ice-strengthened patrol vessel for the Royal New Zealand Navy to undertake activities in the environmentally demanding conditions of the Southern Ocean and Ross Sea.

The Royal New Zealand Navy operates two Protector-class offshore patrol vessels (OPV) – HMNZS Wellington and Otago. They are designed for maritime surveillance, supply and support, and patrol missions around New Zealand’s 15,000-kilometre coast, the Southern Ocean and into the Pacific. Their hulls are strengthened, which enables them to enter southern waters where ice may be encountered.

To better support whole-of-government efforts to monitor and respond to activity in the Southern Ocean and Ross Sea, this project is exploring options for a ship that is designed to operate in one of the harshest environments on the planet. An ice-strengthened offshore patrol vessel for Southern Ocean operations will be nagivating the large distance between New Zealand and Antarctica, and experience suggests that any new vessel will need distinctly different characteristics to the Protector-class OPVs.

It will be traversing one of the roughest seas in the world, and must be able to operate safely in Ross Sea ice conditions. The project will deliver a capability that is compliant with the Polar Code, which came into effect in 2017. The Polar Code covers the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training, search and rescue and environmental protection matters relevant to ships operating in polar waters. This includes mandatory measures and provisions to cover safety and pollution prevention.

Intended compliance to the Polar Code reflects the NZDF’s policy to follow civilian best practise safety regulations for personnel and operations whenever feasible. A third OPV, or Southern Ocean Patrol Vessel (SOPV), will have the additional benefit of freeing up the existing capability to provide coverage across New Zealand’s maritime area and the South Pacific.

Current Status

The project is in the definition phase and is being managed by the Ministry’s Capability Delivery Division.  An integrated project team has been established, comprised of both Ministry of Defence and New Zealand Defence Force personnel.
Following Cabinet approval of the Indicative Business Case on 3 August 2020, the project has been undertaking the work needed to bring a Detailed Business Case (DBC) with a recommended option for a Southern Ocean Patrol Vessel back to Cabinet.  A Request for Information was released via the Government Electronic Tenders Service (GETS) in May 2021 seeking to gauge the level of market interest for undertaking the design and build of a Southern Ocean Patrol Vessel, and to provide an indication of cost to inform the development of the DBC.
During the development of the DBC, the project will explore opportunities to build on earlier industry engagement.  While continuing to operate within the restrictions that COVID-19 is placing on international travel, these opportunities may include ongoing interaction with industry representatives and facilitating visits from industry to the project team where appropriate.
The DBC is currently planned for submission to Cabinet in the first quarter of 2022. 


Contact: Jon Finderup, Maritime Domain Director



Updated: May 2021