Adjustments delay new arctic vessel

FAIRBANKS (AP) — A new research ship designed for arctic waters will take longer than expected to reach Alaska.

The National Science Foundation’s 261-foot Sikuliaq was to reach Seward in January. Its departure from a shipyard in Marinette, Wis., is two to three months behind schedule as builders and operators make adjustments in ship systems, KUAC-radio reported.

The vessel is named for the Inupiaq word for young sea ice. The Sikuliaq will be operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“We’re a little behind schedule, but, you know, these things are very hard to predict,” said the project’s principal investigator, Terry Whitledge. “It’s a pretty complex set of systems that have to go together to make everything work.”

The vessel had been designed in 2009 when economic stimulus money became available for construction. The vessel has a reinforced double hull that can be pushed through ice 2.5 feet thick by rotating thrusters and scalloped propeller blades.

The ship is equipped with multiple cranes. A double articulated A-frame crane off the stern will deploy loads that weigh tens of tons.