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HMS Protector (A173)
HMS Protector in Antarctica.jpg
HMS Protector in Antarctica, March 2012.
Career (Norway)
Name: Polarbjørn
Namesake: Polar bear
Owner: GC Rieber Shipping,[1] Bergen, Norway
  • Western Shiprepair Yard, Klaipėda, Lithuania (hull)[2]
  • Havyard Leirvik, Leirvik, Norway (outfitting)[2]
Yard number: 076[2]
Laid down: 30 September 2000[2]
Launched: 21 July 2001[2]
Completed: 22 October 2001[2]
Homeport: Bergen
Identification: IMO number: 9233997[3]

MMSI Number: 257870000

Call sign: LARY5
Career (UK)
Name: HMS Protector

GC Rieber Shipping, Bergen

September 2013: Royal Navy
Operator: Royal Navy
In service: 2011
Identification: IMO number: 9233997[3]
MMSI Number: 235086758
Call sign: GXRK[2]
Pennant number: A173
Status: In service
General characteristics [2]
Type: Research ship, icebreaker
Tonnage: 4,985 
1,496 NT
1,000 DWT
Length: LOA 89 m (292 ft 0 in)
LBP 80.4 m (263 ft 9 in)
Beam: 18 m (59 ft 1 in)
Draft: 8.35 m (27 ft 5 in) (max)
7.3 m (23 ft 11 in) (as icebreaker)
Ice class: DNV ICE-05
Installed power: 2 x Rolls-Royce Bergen BR-8, 2 x 3,535 kW (4,741 hp)[4]
Propulsion: Rolls-Royce controllable pitch propeller
Brunvoll bow thrusters (800+600 kW), stern thrusters (1125+990 kW) and retractable azimuth thruster (1500 kW)[4]
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Complement: 100 berths

HMS Protector is a Royal Navy ice patrol ship built in Norway in 2001. As MV Polarbjørn (Norwegian: polar bear) she operated under charter as a polar research icebreaker and a subsea support vessel. In 2011, she was chartered as a temporary replacement for the ice patrol ship, HMS Endurance and was purchased outright by the British Ministry of Defence in September 2013.


Polarbjørn was designed and built for long Antarctic expeditions and for supporting subsea work.[5]

From April 2011, she was chartered to the Royal Navy[5] for three years as a temporary replacement for the ice patrol ship, HMS Endurance, and was renamed HMS Protector.[6][7] In September 2013, she was purchased outright by the British Ministry of Defence.[8]


Polarbjørn was equipped to DP2 class[5] and had accommodation for 100. Large cargo holds and open deck areas provide storage capacity for ROVs and related equipment. A 50-ton knuckle-boom crane and the 25-ton stern A-frame allow equipment to be deployed over the side and over the stern.

Prior to the Royal Navy charter, she underwent a ten day refit in Odense, Denmark. The helipad, originally above her bridge, was repositioned over the stern and a multi-beam echo sounder for survey work was installed. Her engines and gearboxes were overhauled and she was modified to allow the carriage of the ancillary vessels and vehicles (survey boats, all-terrain vehicles) used in support of the British Antarctic Survey.[9]

MV Protector inbound to Portsmouth Naval Base on 23 May 2011 with a naval crew lining the deck. Note the helipad repositioned over the stern, and the penguin unit image on the funnel.


Polarbjørn worked in the "spot" market, on short-term charter. During 2009, the vessel was chartered for electromagnetic survey work in the North Sea, Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea.[10][11] She was exposed to a downturn in business during 2010, with only a 33% utilisation.[12]

She was commissioned into the Navy on 23 June 2011 as HMS Protector.[13] She underwent a brief refit to ready her for her role within the Royal Navy. During September 2011, Protector embarked on operational sea training in preparation for her first deployment in November.[14]

In February 2012, after receiving a distress call from a Brazilian Antarctic research station on King George Island in the South Shetland Islands, Protector sailed to provide assistance after a large fire had broken out at the facility. 23 of her sailors were put ashore with fire-fighting equipment to tackle the large blaze. Two of the researchers died in the incident.[15]

During March and April 2012, the ship operated in the vicinity of Rothera. During a major visit, she delivered around 170 cubic metres of aviation fuel. At 67° 34’S, this is the most southerly visit of her career to date, nearly 800 miles from Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of the South America.[16] The crew competed in a ‘winter Olympics’ with scientists from the British Antarctic Survey. It is expected that she will visit Rothera regularly as part of her duties in this region.


An earlier icebreaker Polarbjørn was bought by Greenpeace in 1995 and renamed MV Arctic Sunrise.[17]


  1. "Ice / Support". GC Rieber Shipping. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 "Protector (22866)". DNV Exchange. Det Norske Veritas. .
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Polarbjorn". VesselTracker. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Polar Research/Subsea Support M/V Polarbjørn". Multi Maritime AS. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Polarbjørn". GC Rieber Shipping. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  6. "HMS Protector will be Endurance replacement". The News (Portsmouth). 7 January 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  7. "Replacement for HMS Endurance announced". Ministry of Defence. 25 March 2011. Retrieved 5 April 2011. 
  8. "GC Rieber Shipping sells the ice-breaker "HMS Protector"". 26 September 2013. Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
  9. "HMS Protector ready". Think Defence. 26 May 2011. Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
  10. "GC Rieber subsea ship orders mark "acceptance"". Scandinavian Oil-Gas Online. 16 January 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  11. "PetroMarker electromagnetic (EM) campaign". Discover Petroleum. 20 July 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  12. "Fourth Quarter 2010 Presentation" (webcast). GC Rieber Shipping ASA. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  13. "HMS Protector". Royal Navy. Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
  14. "Protector sails on her debut voyage to the ice". Royal Navy. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
  15. "Protector sailors tackle killer blaze at Antarctic base". Navy News. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012. 
  16. UK Ministry of Defence. "The Ship's Company of HMS Protector at Rothera, Antarctica". Flickr. Retrieved 15 June 2012. 
  17. "Ships of the French Southern and Antarctic Territories". Philateliemarine. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 

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