Japan Expands Its Role in Arctic Research


Photo: Render of the Japan's Arctic research vessel Mirai II (JAMSTEC). Traffic News

On June 28, 2024, the Arctic research vessel construction team at the Japan Marine United (JMU) shipyard in Yokohama discussed the final design of the new Arctic research vessel Mirai II, Japan's first research vessel with icebreaking capabilities. Back in January 2024, metal cutting for the vessel's structures began. As of the end of June 2024, the construction of Mirai II is on schedule in accordance with the work plan. The shipyard continues to manufacture hull blocks, the assembly of which will start in September of this year at the shipyard dock.

Main characteristics of the vessel: length 128 m, width 23 m, height 12.4 m, draft 8 m, displacement about 13,000 tons, crew 99 people. The icebreaking capability is at a level that allows it to continuously break through flat first-year ice 1.2 m thick at a ship speed of 3 knots (about 5.56 km/h). The vessel will comply with the international polar class 4 (PC4), which provides for year-round operation in first-year ice of significant thickness with inclusions of multi-year ice. For research and monitoring, the ship will be equipped with a large weather radar, drone (UAV), uninhabited underwater vehicle (underwater drone), remotely operated unmanned vehicle (ROV), soil sampler, sea water sampling device (CTD) and several others.

Stainless clad steel is used in construction, which is made by pressing stainless and carbon steel together. This breakthrough technology is a Japanese development, first used in the construction of the Antarctic research icebreaker Shirase. Mirai II is scheduled to be launched in March 2025 and commissioned in November 2026.

From then on, Japan's initiative to conduct polar research in the Arctic will represent a significant step forward in its scientific capabilities. This move will place Japan among the select group of countries with the capacity for Arctic research excluding wintertime.

Sources: Jamstec (28.6.2024), Jamstec (26.4.2024), Jamstec (22.2.2024), Traffic News