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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.

With Cabinet approval of the Indicative Business Case on 3 August 2020, the project started on the work needed to bring a Detailed Business Case (DBC) with a recommended option for a Southern Ocean Patrol Vessel to Cabinet before the end of 2021.

As part of the project's risk reduction work, Beca Applied Technologies Limited has been contracted as design and technical support partner. The initial focus will be to further develop and define the project's user, system and functional requirements.

During the development of the DBC, the project will explore opportunities to build on earlier industry engagement. While continuing to operate within COVID-19 restrictions, these opportunities may include ongoing interaction with industry representative, and facilitating visits from industry to the project team where appropriate.


Contact: Robert Galvin, Integrated Project Team Leader



Updated: September 2020