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New Zealand releases Southern Ocean patrol ship RFI

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has issued a request for information (RFI) for the design and build of a new Southern Ocean Patrol Vessel (SOPV).

New Zealand is looking to add a third OPV to its fleet. (RNZN)

New Zealand is looking to add a third OPV to its fleet. (RNZN)

In the RFI, released on 11 May, the NZDF stated that it is primarily looking for a commercial ship design, highlighting that the SOPV is a non-combat vessel and will be expected to undertake mainly non-military tasks. However, existing military patrol ship designs are not excluded.

According to New Zealand’s latest Defence Capability Plan 2019 (DCP2019), the budget for the ship will be in the region of NZD300–600 million (USD215–430 million). Cabinet approval for the initial business case for the SOPV was approved in August 2020.

The military-related tasking for the SOPV includes maritime patrol, ISR, maritime interdiction, and training. Non-military missions include defence diplomacy, research, maritime incident response, search and rescue, and maritime resupply.

The specifications released in the RFI call for an ice-strengthened ship that is capable of conducting increased levels of patrolling and maintaining a presence lasting at least four months during the antipodean summer period in the rough seas of the Southern Ocean that stretches from New Zealand to Antarctica.

Design and construction compliancy with the Polar Code for operations in a variety of ice conditions and temperatures (-30°C) is an essential prerequisite. The Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) is planning to increase its capability to operate safely in areas such as the Ross Sea, which has thicker sea ice levels. The Ross Sea was added to the RNZN’s responsibilities in New Zealand’s Defence Policy Statement of 2018.

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