February 11, 2019 (Google Translation) – On January 4, at the pier of Asmar in Punta Arenas, the farewell ceremony of the icebreaker AP-46 “Almirante Óscar Viel” belonging to the Third Naval Zone was held, starting its last navigation on January 8 to Talcahuano. where, officially, this Monday, February 11, he was discharged from the service of the Chilean Navy.
In an emotional ceremony, which was chaired by the Commander in Chief of the Navy (S), Guillermo Luttges VA and was marked by details and memories, the last crew composed of 84 men boarded and disembarked once again the Unit, which identified as his home and for 24 years he traveled to Antarctica facing the rudeness of the Drake Sea and the challenging floating ice.
His last Commander, Captain Jorge Luhrs, gave a speech reason where he commented: “I have the enormous obligation to represent the 25 Commanders, many of them here present, and their numerous and committed crews. Their old steels are the mute witness of hundreds of sailors, scientists and personnel from other institutions that passed by their decks, who rested in their bunk beds and who laughed in their cameras. Summarizing your history only in a few lines is not feasible, you can highlight many, especially those of his role as Icebreaker and that allowed continued support throughout the Chilean Antarctic territory, from the island “King George” in the north, to the “Bahia Margarita” area to the south. In the memory will be the 87 Antarctic Campaigns, the inclement unloading tasks, with freezing and penetrating winds,
Finally the Commander added that “this sea steed arrived where many fear to go and did what others can not. He saw the face of terror, felt the cold and fear, and after driving us to the most remote corners of the world, without a single complaint, reached his last port, sailing with much effort.
The first icebreaker commander was also present at the ceremony, Captain Mario (R) Mario Escobar, who was responsible for bringing the Unit to Chile from Canada. “You get excited because you can see the wonderful spirit on the ship, its Commander, the Officers and the staff. The ship like all things has to stop at some point and this ship is already tired. Having participated in the ceremony delivering the pennant was an honor, I think it is something unique, I had never seen the first and last Commander were together delivering the Combat Pavilion. ”
At the end of the Commander in Chief of the Navy (S), VA Guillermo Luttges, addressed the endowment telling them that “without a doubt the life of a ship is in the spirit of its endowment; and I could see the testimony of many of its members who manifested from the depth of their spirit the vocation, the dedication they had until the last minute. Tell them that even if the iron went out the spirit will remain in force. ”
In total there were 87 Antarctic Campaigns that were carried out and that of the 2017-2018 summer season was the farewell of the ship which had capacity for about 200 people, among them 86 crew members.
Its retirement is due to the fact that it has already fulfilled its useful life, that although it served a quarter of a century to our Navy, it has been operating for almost 50 years since its manufacture in Canada.
Who will replace it?
Rear Admiral Ronald Baasch, Commander-in-Chief of the Third Naval Zone, where the Icebreaker depends, explained that “not having the ‘Viel’ is a loss for the Institution, but when one speaks of capabilities it is separated a bit strictly of one type of ship, that is, the Chilean Navy and the Third Naval Zone keep their capabilities intact and we have supplied them with other types of multipurpose units. Thus, the ‘Achilles’ assumes a role as transport and as the main base for Antarctic scientific expeditions; the ‘Lautaro’ as an especially logistic vessel in terms of the capacity to transport fuel to all bases; and the ‘Fuentealba Marinero’ OPV for specific commissions and operations support in the Antarctic. A kind of support in capacities that although they do not replace the ‘Viel’,
A New Icebreaker
For his part, José Chaparro, who works in the Department of Naval Construction Projects and has participated since the beginning in the development of the new icebreaker commented on the construction of this Unit and mentioned that “in these minutes it is already physically in the first blocks In step, the steel cutting began, the pipe assembly, the logistic process is in its final stage. Now the new equipment of the ship is starting to arrive soon. What has been slow in the process is that the shipyard has had to update itself and increase its capabilities to face this new project which is a great challenge for Asmar “.
The new icebreaker is expected to be launched in 2022 and the 2023 will be put into service. Regarding the main differences between the now ex-Icebreaker “Óscar Viel” and the new one, Chaparro specifies that “the capabilities of the latter make it an absolutely ecological vessel, which meets all the international requirements for pollution of both air emissions, water, environmental protection, among other points.
As for the capacity, it also ensures that “it will have it for 120 people and to be able to transfer 18 shipwrecks that additionally add up. It has a hospital, a flight deck with capacity to carry two Super Puma helicopters and 20 containers. In addition to the logistics support vessel to download in the Antarctic that has, which will allow from the point of view of security, deliver a comprehensive solution.