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Ice-breaking Services at McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Solicitation Number: DACSUSAP2012-13
Agency: National Science Foundation
Office: Division of Acquisition and Cooperative Support
Location: DACS
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Sources Sought
Added: May 09, 2012 4:28 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 10/10ths sea ice, and to escort an ice-strengthened tanker and an ice-strengthened cargo ship to the pier at McMurdo Station (77°51' S, 166°40' E). NSF is interested in short-term availability as well as possible long-term arrangements. 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 and the Russian icebreaker VLADIMIR IGNATYUK 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, 49 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 cargo ship expected for the 2012/2013 season is the MV GREEN WAVE, which has a gross displacement of 26,260 tons, a length of 469 ft and a beam of 75 ft. The tanker is expected to be the MT MAERSK PEARY, which has a gross displacement of 25,487 tons, a length of 590 ft and a beam of 105 ft. Use of supply ships of similar capacity and size are anticipated over the life of any contractual arrangement.

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. While these dates are optimal, NSF is willing to consider other timing options. Please specify any alternate timing options when responding.

Sea Ice

The sea ice in McMurdo Sound in January has typically been between 10 and 16 feet thick with a distance of 10 to 20 miles from McMurdo Station. Historically, first-year ice conditions are re-established approximately every three to five years. Beginning in 2000, the sea ice grew to more than 23 feet thick and remained firmly in place until 2011. All of the fast ice cleared dramatically between 14 and 24 February 2011. First-year ice was present throughout McMurdo Sound during the 2012 USAP icebreaking mission. The fast ice again cleared from McMurdo Sound in February 2012. Ice conditions for the 2013 resupply are expected to be identical to 2012.

Sea ice in McMurdo Sound commonly has a snow cover of between six inches and two feet. Generally, snow depth increases along the typical path of icebreaking towards McMurdo Station (see Attachment 1). Sea ice pressure ridges are rare in McMurdo Sound, but are occasionally present when ice in excess of four years old constrains first-year ice within the shipping channel.

Sea ice conditions in McMurdo Sound are expected this season (Jan-Feb 2013) to be very similar to last season (Jan-Feb 2012) and to be more benign from an icebreaking standpoint than for the 12 years from 1999 to 2011. First year sea ice, devoid of trapped floes from the prior break-out, will be present over the entire McMurdo Sound. Typical sea ice edge retreat is anticipated, bringing the ice edge to between 5 and 15 NM of McMurdo by mid-January 2013. This sea ice is estimated to be between 95 and 100 inches in thickness and 26 to 28 degrees F in early January. Ice thickness and temperature typically remain constant or increase slightly between early January and the middle of February.

Attachment 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 name and specifications using BIMCO Supplytime 89, Annex A as the format
• Name/address of vessel's owner and vessel's operator (if different)
• Date and location of most recent major maintenance activity or dry docking and description of work done
• 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 achieve 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 May 23, 2012 is requested. Submissions and other inquiries should be addressed to Mary Rouse, Contracting Officer,, via e-mail.


• Attachment 1 - McMurdo and typical path of icebreaking for shipping channel
• Attachment 2 - U.S. Antarctic Program Icebreaking History

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Attachment 1

Other (Draft RFPs/RFIs, Responses to Questions, etc..)
Attachment 1
Posted Date:
May 9, 2012
Description: McMurdo and typical path of icebreaking for shipping channel

Attachment 2

Other (Draft RFPs/RFIs, Responses to Questions, etc..)
Attachment 2
Posted Date:
May 9, 2012
Description: US Antarctic Program Icebreaking History
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22230
McMurdo Station

Mary C. Rouse,
Contracting Officer
Phone: 703 292-4588
Fax: 703 292-9140
Quyen Diep,
Contracting Officer
Phone: 703-292-4584
Fax: 703-292-9140