Sleek but tough, the new SA Agulhas II passed all the trials that its designers and the icy sea could throw at it. The ship, seen here in pack ice in the Bay of Bothnia in Finland, is expected to arrive in Cape Town on May 3. Picture: Urban Soul.

South Africa’s new supply ship for the Antarctic, SA Agulhas II, is one step closer to coming home from the shipyards of Finland after passing its ice trials in the icy north with flying colours.

Alan Robertson, project manager for the building of the ship, said on Monday that the ship had “behaved beyond expectation” during the ice trials. He said the purpose of the trials was to make a range of measurements while the vessel was sailing through ice.

The tests were conducted in the Bay of Bothnia in Finland.

“Because of the lateness in the season, melting of the ice had already begun, but the ship was able to navigate very successfully in ice up to 600mm thick without any difficulty,” he said.

The experiment would continue during the ship’s first South African Antarctic Expedition (SANAE) voyage in December next year.

As well as measuring the thickness and density of ice, load cells fitted in various compartments on the ship measured the actual load on the hull and propulsion system.

The final testing of the propulsion system was completed and the shipyard and the Department of Environmental Affairs were now preparing for the official handover of the vessel on April 4.

The ship is expected to sail from Finland on April 5 and arrive in Cape Town on May 3.