L'Astrolabe (2016 icebreaker)

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L'Astrolabe e Konk-Kerne 01.jpg
L'Astrolabe in Concarneau, France, on 22 January 2017
OwnerFrench Southern and Antarctic Lands administration
Port of registryConcarneau, France
OrderedJune 2015
Cost50 million euro
Yard numberC325
Launched22 December 2016[3]
Christened12 July 2017[5]
CompletedSeptember 2017[2]
StatusIn service
General characteristics
Length72 m (236 ft)
Beam16 m (52 ft)
Ice classBV Icebreaker 5
Installed power4 × Wärtsilä 8L20 (4 × 1,600 kW)
PropulsionTwo shafts; controllable pitch propellers
Endurance35 days at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
  • 1,200 tons of cargo
  • Accommodation for 60 personnel
Aviation facilitiesHelipad and hangar

L'Astrolabe is a French icebreaker that is used to bring personnel and supplies to the Dumont d'Urville Station in Antarctica. The vessel, built by Chantiers Piriou and delivered in September 2017, replaced the 1986-built vessel of the same name.

Development and construction[edit]

In June 2015, the Ministry of Overseas France awarded the construction of a 50 million Euro polar logistics vessel to the Chantiers Piriou from Concarneau in Brittany. The vessel, based on a concept developed by French naval architecture company Marine Assistance, combines the functions of the two existing French ships it replaced: the 1966-built patrol vessel L'Albatros and the 1986-built icebreaker L'Astrolabe. The new vessel is owned and operated by the French Southern and Antarctic Lands (TAAF) administration, the French Polar Institute Paul-Émile Victor (IPEV) and the French Navy.[6]

Since Chantiers Piriou had no experience of building an ice-going vessel, the French shipyard joined forces with the Finnish engineering company Aker Arctic in order to be able to bid against foreign shipyards such as the German Nordic Yards.[6] Later, Aker Arctic was also chosen to carry out basic design and ice model testing for the vessel.[7]

Since the Chantiers Piriou shipyard was fully booked with ship orders from the French Navy, the construction of the hull was subcontracted to a Polish shipyard. The production of the vessel began on 16 December at CRIST in Gdynia, Poland. On 22 December 2016, approximately one year later, the vessel was floated out from the dry dock.[3] The unfinished vessel was then towed to France for final outfitting.[8] The ship, which was given the name L'Astrolabe after her predecessor on 12 July, was delivered in September 2017.


L'Astrolabe was deployed in the Indian Ocean in 2017, and carried out her first resupply mission to the Dumont d'Urville Station in Adélie Land, Antarctica, in 2018.[6]

In November 2019, a major defect in the ship's propeller forced L'Astrolabe to cancel the resupply mission to France's Antarctic research stations. French expeditioners, cargo and supplies will instead be carried on the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis which was made available by the Australian Antarctic Division.[9]

In spring 2021 the ship engaged in a surveillance and fisheries patrol mission around the Scattered Islands and Mayotte to monitor the French Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).[10]

Most recently on September 2021 the ship docked at the BAE Systems Shipyard[11] near Fremantle, Western Australia for some out of water repairs.[12]


L'Astrolabe is 72 metres (236 ft) long and 16 metres (52 ft), making the new vessel somewhat larger than her 66-metre (217 ft) predecessor. The vessel can carry 1,200 tons of cargo and has accommodation for up to 60 personnel, which includes the crew of the vessel. She can also accommodate a helicopter belowdecks.[13][14]

The vessel is powered by four 1,600 kW (2,100 hp) Wärtsilä 8L20 medium-speed diesel engines driving two stainless steel controllable pitch propellers.[15] She is also fitted with selective catalytic reduction units to reduce NOx emissions and comply with IMO Tier III emission regulations.[16]

L'Astrolabe is classified by Bureau Veritas. Her ice class, Icebreaker 5, means that she is allowed to operate independently in medium first-year-ice up to 1.2 metres (3.9 ft) thick during the summer and autumn and up to 1 metre (3.3 ft) thick during the winter and spring. The vessel is also allowed to ram ice at a speed of 5.5 knots (10.2 km/h; 6.3 mph), but the ramming shall not be repeated if the ice does not fail at the first attempt.[17]


  1. ^ a b "L'Astrolabe (9797539)". Equasis. French Ministry for Transport. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
  2. ^ French Navy receives icebreaker and patrol vessel L'Astrolabe. Naval Today, 13 July 2017. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
  3. ^ a b French Polar Logisitcs Support Vessel L'Astrolabe Launched in Poland. Navy Recognition, 24 December 2016. Retrieved 2016-12-25.
  4. ^ Polar Logistic Ice-breaker L'Astrolabe on the way to home port. Piriou, 12 August 2017. Retrieved 2017-10-31.
  5. ^ Baptême du nouveau navire polaire "L'Astrolabe" ce mercredi 12 juillet 2017. TAAF, 13 July 2017. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
  6. ^ a b c Piriou construira le successeur de l'Albatros et de L'Astrolabe. Mer et Marine, 10 June 2015. Retrieved 2016-02-07.
  7. ^ Aker Arctic and PIRIOU shipyard have signed a contract for the basic design for a Polar Logistics Vessel Archived 2016-02-02 at archive.today. Aker Arctic. Retrieved 2016-02-07.
  8. ^ La construction de l'Astrolabe a débuté. Mer et Marine, 6 January 2016. Retrieved 2016-02-07.
  9. ^ Nogrady, Bianca (26 November 2019). "Australian icebreaker will resupply French Antarctic bases". Nature. doi:10.1038/d41586-019-03644-8. PMID 33235379. S2CID 213938444. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  10. ^ "L'Astrolabe on Indian Ocean EEZ Patrol – SeaWaves Magazine".
  11. ^ "Commercial ship repair".
  12. ^ "Australia to host French icebreaker on Antarctic resupply mission". 30 August 2021.
  13. ^ PIRIOU - PLV DE 72 M EN CONSTRUCTION. PIRIOU, 6 January 2016. Retrieved 2016-03-02.
  14. ^ Basic design agreement for French polar logistics vessel. Arctic Passion News 2/2015. Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  15. ^ L'ASTROLABE P 800 IMO.9797539. Bateaux-Fecamp. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
  16. ^ New support icebreaker in Antarctic featuring Wärtsilä propulsion machinery. Wärtsilä, 23 November 2015. Retrieved 2016-02-07.
  17. ^ Rules for the Classification of POLAR CLASS and ICEBREAKER Ships. Bureau Veritas, April 2013.