Icebreaker price yet to be confirmed

By Andrew Drummond

Australia's bigger, stronger and faster new icebreaker vessel will cost about $1 billion to build and maintain.

But while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has already unveiled a model of the ship, the exact cost is yet to be finalised.

Visiting Tasmania on Thursday, Mr Turnbull announced that Netherlands-based and British-owned Damen Shipyards will build the 156-metre vessel that will call Hobart home and begin operations in October 2019.

He said funding for a new ship to replace the outdated, 25-year-old Aurora Australis was "clearly necessary" and defended engaging a foreign company to build the vessel.

"The business of building icebreakers ... the market for that or the business for that is not located in Australia," Mr Turnbull told reporters.

"This is a niche vessel, so I don't think it's surprising that all the tenders involved an overseas yard."

Six tenders were initially received in a process that had been overseen by the Finance Department and independent advisers KPMG, Environment Minister Greg Hunt said.

"There's a tender process going on," he said.

"We are on track to a result that will represent a very successful result for Australia. We are driving a very hard bargain."

The cost would include operating and maintenance costs for the ship until 2049, the majority of which would be spent in Australia, Mr Hunt added.

The federal government will launch a competition to name the new ship, which will be specially designed to allow scientists unprecedented access to the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.

New technology will enable sea floor mapping and on-board laboratories will offer scientists in situ research facilities.

While on the topic, Mr Turnbull was asked if he would be making a diplomatic appeal to Japan not to carry out whaling in the Southern Ocean.

"We strongly encourage Japan to cease its whaling operations at any time, in any season, in any year," Mr Turnbull said, adding that Australia had made its stance clear.


Name: To be decided by a public competition

Price: To be confirmed

Colour: Orange

Length: 156 metres

Passengers: 116

Cargo: 1200 tonnes

Icebreaking speed: Three knots through 1.65-metre-thick ice

Range: More than 16,000 nautical miles