THE Royal Navy will spend £26m on the replacement ship for damaged HMS Endurance, The News can reveal.
The contract signed with Norwegian firm GC Rieber Shipping for a replacement ice patrol ship MV Polarbjorn is initially for a three-year lease.
But the navy has the option to extend the lease for two years or to purchase the ship.
This is a similar arrangement to when the navy acquired HMS Endurance from Rieber in the early 1990s.
Originally named HMS Polar Circle, the icebreaker was first on loan for eight months and then bought from the company.
A replacement icebreaker comes after Endurance nearly sank in 2008.
A 15-month investigation revealed the ship flooded near Chile when a valve opened during a routine filter change off.
The ship was carried back home to Portsmouth on a transport ship from the Falkland Islands in April 2009 at a cost of £4m.
The navy originally said it intended to repair it.
But faced with a £40m repair bill, the Ministry of Defence opted for replacement vessel MV Polarbjorn – a Norwegian icebreaker built in 2001.
The MoD maintains no final decision has been made on the future of Endurance, which has sat idle in Portsmouth Naval Base for more than two years.
Sources say it is more likely she will be sold for parts or scrap rather than be repaired at such great cost.
Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock said: ‘That would be the best move. It’s very good news that we’ve got this new icebreaker in.’
MV Polarbjorn will arrive in Portsmouth in May. She will be commissioned in to the navy on June 23 and renamed HMS Protector after a previous Antarctic patrol vessel.
The new ship’s commanding officer is understood to be Captain Peter Sparkes, who previously captained the frigate HMS Cumberland.
Meanwhile, the future deployments of HMS Scott, which has stood in for Endurance in the Antarctic despite not having an icebreaker function, is unconfirmed. A navy spokesman said an announcement of her next deployment will be made soon.