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Ice-breaking Services, Antarctica

Solicitation Number: DACS11P2168
Agency: National Science Foundation
Office: Division of Acquisition and Cooperative Support
Location: DACS
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Sources Sought
Added: May 23, 2011 1:12 pm
The National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent agency of the United States Government, is seeking information regarding the availability of icebreaking services capable of enabling the re-supply of the U.S. Antarctic Program's (USAP) McMurdo Station. NSF is the U.S. Government Agency responsible for directing and funding the USAP, and manages the entire United States national program in Antarctica, including logistic support activities, so that the program may be managed as a single package.


NSF is interested in contracting for icebreaking services to annually open a channel through first year and multi-year (typically not more than four-year old) 10/10ths sea ice, and the escort of an ice-strengthened tanker and an ice-strengthened cargo ship to the pier at McMurdo Station (77°51' S, 166°40' E). NSF intends for this to be a long-term arrangement and is also interested in short-term availability. The contract could include annual mobilization and de-mobilization costs and periods (length of time to be determined based on location of home port) and an operating period in the Southern Ocean south of 60° S of approximately 4 to 5 weeks. After that period the vessel could be off-contract and free to engage in other work.

Traditionally, the USAP has relied on the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) using its POLAR class icebreaking ships. However, these vessels are not currently available. More recently, NSF has chartered the Swedish icebreaker Oden to perform the break-in and ship escort. NSF is now exploring potential alternative options for opening the supply channel to McMurdo Station through a reliable long-term arrangement, either with a commercial or governmental provider, or through a multi-national arrangement.

NSF is not seeking binding offers to contract at this time; however, based upon the information received the Foundation may initiate discussions, seek offers, and award a contract with an owner or operator per the authority at 42 U.S.C. 1870(c).

The United States Antarctic Program

Scientific research, and operational support of that research, is the principal activity supported by the United States Government in Antarctica. The goals are to expand fundamental knowledge of the region, to foster research on global and regional problems of current scientific importance, and to utilize the region as a platform from which to support research. For projects involving fieldwork, the USAP supports research that can only or can best be done in Antarctica.

The Program has been in continuous operation since the 1957-1958 International Geophysical Year and continuation into the foreseeable future is anticipated. U.S. activities in Antarctica support the Nation's adherence to the Antarctic Treaty, which reserves the region for peaceful purposes and encourages international cooperation in scientific research. At present, 45 nations adhere to the treaty, and many of them are involved in Antarctic field activities. The United States cooperates scientifically and operationally with many of the Antarctic Treaty nations.

McMurdo Station is the major USAP logistics hub for the support of continental-based science. McMurdo is located on Ross Island in the Southern edge of the Ross Sea. It is the furthest south exposed land to which a ship can sail. Refer to for a more complete description of the USAP research support facilities including McMurdo Station.

Typical Schedule and Operations

The icebreaker typically passes 60°S latitude en route to McMurdo on or about 10 January. Departure from McMurdo is at the conclusion of the resupply mission in mid-February (4-5 weeks after arrival). The basic tasks are to open an appropriately-wide and ice-milled channel to the McMurdo Station pier, and escort a tanker and a freighter through the sea ice and channel to the pier and back to the open ocean as required.

The actual cargo and tanker ships to be used during the 2011/2012 season have not yet been identified. However, it can be expected that the cargo ship will have a gross displacement of about 15,000 tons, a length of about 500ft and a beam of about 75ft. The tanker will have a gross displacement of about 40,000 tons, a length of about 600ft and a beam of about 90ft. Use of supply ships of similar capacity and size are anticipated over the life of the contract.

The Military Sealift Command (U.S. Navy) provides these vessels for the USAP. The tanker arrives at the McMurdo ice edge on or about 26 January and departs about 31 January each year. The cargo ship arrives at the McMurdo ice edge on or about 2 February and departs about 10 February each year. At times the order of arrival of these ships is switched, but the USAP resupply window is ideally between 25 January and 15 February each year.

Sea Ice

The fast ice in McMurdo Sound in January has typically been between ten and 16 feet in thickness for a distance of 10 to 20 miles from McMurdo. Historically, this ice is only first-year ice approximately every three to five years. However, ice that developed over the 1998 winter became affixed in McMurdo Sound and, assisted by the presence at the entrance of the Sound of several very large icebergs for a couple years in the early 2000's, it grew to a thickness of more than 23ft and remained firmly in place until 2011. All of the fast ice released dramatically during a 10-day period between 14 and 24 February, 2011; therefore, first-year ice will be present throughout McMurdo Sound during the 2012 USAP icebreaking mission.

Sea ice in McMurdo Sound commonly has a snow cover of between six inches and two feet. Generally, snow depth increases the closer the ice is to McMurdo, in part because the typical path of icebreaking gets closer to Ross Island as the distance to McMurdo diminishes. (Appendix 1 shows McMurdo Sound and the typical icebreaking path.) Pressure ridges are rare in McMurdo Sound sea ice, but occasionally are present when multi-year ice in excess of four-years old constrains the first-year ice of the re-frozen shipping channel.

Appendix 2 contains a listing of the extent of fast sea ice (measured north from McMurdo Station at the time of icebreaker arrival) and the icebreaking vessels used since 1957. Recent archival images may be viewed at: and

Submission of Information

Interested parties are free to provide any information that they believe may assist NSF in its assessment of the availability and reliability of icebreaking services; however, the Foundation will not pay for any information submitted. Except as identified herein, no specific format is required.

Among the factors that NSF would consider in determining suitability of an existing or to-be-built vessel for icebreaking services would be:

• Intended vessel's actual certified or anticipated ice classification and maximum ice thickness and speed of advance for continuous progress
• Society providing ice certification
• Vessel's displacement
• Statement of availability
• Ship's registry
• Vessel's or vessels' name and specifications using BIMCO Supplytime 89, Annex A as the format
• Name/address of vessel's owner and vessel's operator (if different)
• Time remaining prior to any major maintenance activity and dry docking
• Approximate price per day, and any extras (e.g., taxes, victuals, commissions, communications, fuels, oils, lubricants)
• Expected mobilization and demobilization charges and port of initiation/return
• Past performance contact information
• Special operating restrictions or conditions

Any vessel operating in Antarctic waters (defined as south of 60°S latitude) must adhere to all MARPOL and IMO regulations, including a prohibition on the carriage or consumption of heavy fuels. Please specify what fuel type will be used by the intended vessel.

It is highly desirable that the vessel have sufficient fuel bunkering capacity to complete the USAP mission without re-fueling south of 60°S latitude. Please specifically indicate whether the intended vessel has the capacity to enable this.

If the vessel must receive fuel during the period of time while operating in the Southern Ocean, McMurdo can provide an all purpose diesel fuel, JP-5. Specifications for this fuel can be found at Respondents are asked to review this fuel specification and comment on its suitability. If another diesel fuel must be used (e.g. MGO or MDO), NSF can have it delivered by the USAP tanker. If bunkering in the McMurdo area is required, please provide an estimate of the quantity of fuel that must be delivered and the proposed ship's ability to perform ship-to-ship refueling. There is no storage capacity for specialty fuels in McMurdo, thus the fuel must be delivered directly from the tanker.

Where fuel is expected to be provided at McMurdo, NSF will establish that fuel's value for credit to the overall cost of icebreaking services.

The Committee of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) has developed ballast water management guidelines. Please comment on your ability to comply with the guidelines (

Thank you in advance for your interest in the acquisition programs of the National Science Foundation. Though NSF will consider any information interested parties choose to submit at any time, the privilege of your submission on or prior to June 23, 2011 is requested. Submissions and other inquiries should be addressed to Pamela Franzel, Contracting Officer,, via e-mail.


• Attachment 1 - McMurdo and typical path of icebreaking for shipping channel
• Attachment 2 - Annual extent of sea ice and vessels used since 1957

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DACS11P2168 Attachments

Other (Draft RFPs/RFIs, Responses to Questions, etc..)
DACS11P2168 Attachments
Posted Date:
May 23, 2011
Description: Attachment 1 McMurdo and typical path of icebreaking for shipping channel
Attachment 2 Annual extent of sea ice and vessels used since 1957
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22230
McMurdo Station,
Pamela Franzel,
Contracting Officer
Fax: (703) 292-9140