France to Build Ice-Class Research Vessel
© Jonathan Nackstrand, AFP
Almost a year after unveiling its polar strategy for 2030, French President Emmanuel Macron announced last Friday that France would construct an ice-class research vessel as part of its billion-euro plan to enhance polar research. At the One Planet-Polar Summit in Paris last week, Macron announced the first international summit for glaciers and poles initiated by the French government, bringing together researchers and leaders from over forty glacial and polar regions.
Notably, Russia, a significant Arctic nation, was not invited to the conference due to its ongoing war in Ukraine.
Macron's focal point was the climate emergency confronting the planet's cryosphere, which he described as a civilizational challenge. Despite the resurgence of geopolitical tensions, Macron called for an "unprecedented level of cooperation" among world leaders.
"The war in Ukraine has weakened cooperation with major geopolitical and scientific powers. Despite these tensions, it's clear that we must act and make the poles and glaciers privileged spaces for peace, scientific, and environmental cooperation," stated Macron.
At the summit, Macron also revealed that France would invest $1.1 billion in polar research, earmarking funds to acquire a new ice-class vessel for polar expeditions. The vessel will be named after Michel Rocard, the former Prime Minister of France and later French Ambassador responsible for international negotiations on the Arctic and Antarctic Poles, who passed away in 2016.
The vessel will be primarily based in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia in the South Pacific, undertaking missions to serve both the Western Pacific and Antarctica.
In its 2030 Polar Strategy, France identified the lack of research vessels as a significant hindrance to French scientists conducting international research in polar regions. Initially considering options such as constructing a new ice-class vessel, renovating an old patrol boat, or collaborating with international partners, France has now committed to building a dedicated ice-class research vessel.
As part of the strategy, Macron pledged to rebuild the Dumont d'Urville station in Antarctica starting in 2026. The Concordia station, jointly operated by France and Italy, will also undergo renovation.
France is planning two significant North and South Poles initiatives, including financial support for the Polar Pod expedition led by French explorer Jean-Louis Etienne. The Polar Pod, a uniquely designed vertical vessel, will sail in the Antarctic Sea assisted by ocean currents, aiming to explore the Southern Ocean and provide data and long-term observations to researchers from 43 scientific institutions across 12 countries involved in the project.
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