Shipping in ice covered Polar waters is increasing and new ice classed ships are built to replace older ice strengthened fleet. Selection of suitable ice class for ships operation is an important but not simple task. The process of selecting an appropriate ice class is of high importance both from a safety as well as an economical perspective, but the selection process is still based on accumulated experience and traditions within the areas of existing operations. The increased exploitation of the Polar waters, both seasonal periods and geographical areas, as well as the introduction of new international design standards, reduces the relevancy of using existing experience as basis for the selection, and new methods and knowledge have to be developed. Based on the full scale measurements of ice loads during summer 2013-2014 in the Antarctica, the structural strength of the South African research vessel S.A. Agulhas II has been evaluated to assess the suitability of the chosen ice class of the vessel. The new polar code and especially the new Polar Operational Limit Assessment Risk Indexing System (POLARIS)is applied on this vessel to evaluate the suitable ice class. It is found the PC 3 is the most suitable ice class for ships navigating in harsh Antarctic ice conditions.

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