New Zealand’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has reportedly deferred plans to procure an ice-strengthened vessel under its Antarctic patrol ship project.

A report published by Reuters said that the MoD is reassessing the planned budget due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an email statement, MoD Defence Policy and Planning deputy secretary Michael Swain told Reuters: “Due to the impact Covid-19 has had on the fiscal environment and emerging personnel pressures from other projects, this work has been deferred.”

Besides, the MoD has not confirmed the new schedule for resuming the project.

As per the reports, Swain said a new tender for information on build costs and design will be released if the project is revived in the future.

The patrol vessel was expected to provide enhanced patrol capabilities to the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) in the environmentally demanding conditions of the Southern Ocean and Ross Sea.

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In the Defence Capability Plan 2019, New Zealand’s MoD highlighted the investment plans for a dedicated Southern Patrol Ocean Vessel.

According to the capability plan, the MoD was expected to issue a tender request for the patrol vessels in 2022 with a launch anticipated in 2027.

The total indicative capital cost of the project was estimated to be from $300m to $600m.

At present, the RNZN owns only one polar-class sustainment vessel, HMNZS Aotearoa, which is responsible for carrying out operations in Asia and the Pacific.