Chile’s New Icebreaker Prepares to Enter into Service

Almirante Viel
Courtesy Armada de Chile

Published Apr 28, 2024 11:43 AM by The Maritime Executive


Last week, Chile completed the first round of sea trials for its new polar icebreaker, Almirante Viel. The Chilean government of  President Gabriel Boric lauded the milestone, especially the fact that the icebreaker was built entirely in the country.

The vessel was built by state-owned ASMAR Shipyard based on a VARD design, and is estimated to have cost over $200 million. It is scheduled to be delivered to the Chilean Navy in the last quarter of this year, and is designed to support scientific research in the Antarctic region.

The Navy said that the sea trials proved the success of the project, with all aspects of the icebreaker’s performance evaluated including maneuverability, structural strength and energy efficiency.

“We are happy about this stage after a long period of construction and design. We are working towards this ship being able to reach the cold waters of the white continent and contribute to national development, science and protection of the aquatic environment,” said Rear Admiral, Rodrigo Peñaranda, Chilean Navy Director for Programs, Research and Development.

The 10,500-ton Almirante Viel is a Polar Class 5 icebreaker, capable of breaking one meter of ice at a speed of three knots. It is designed to accommodate 30 researchers, and is equipped with microbiology, hydrography and chemistry laboratories. The vessel has been a source of national pride in Chile, as it is the biggest icebreaking ship ever built in South America.

The icebreaker will replace the previous vessel of the same name, which was in operation from 1995 to 2019. It was acquired as a second-hand icebreaker from the Canadian Coast Guard, and was built in 1969 at Vickers-Armstrong Shipyard in Montreal.

Based on its proximity to Antarctica, Chile wants to play a leading role in the research and conservation through its 12 research stations in the region. Chile has also been at the forefront of supporting international missions to the frozen continent, with 22 countries using the Chilean Magallanes region as port of entry to Antarctica. Chile’s navy believes that the new icebreaker will strengthen its position in Antarctica’s scientific exploration and maritime security.