ICELAND perfected the use of the Offshore Patrol Vessel during the “Cod Wars” with Britain in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
They were a series of disputes over fishing rights which ultimately Iceland won. While Britain deployed task forces of state-of-the-art frigates and maritime patrol aircraft, to the waters of the North Atlantic, Iceland sent its tiny fleet of patrol ships, to face-off the Royal Navy.
At times the dispute got quite violent as this TV footage of the time shot from the Icelandic vessel Thor shows.
Wind the clock forward 40 years and there is a new ship in the Iceland Coast Guard fleet called Thor. Designed by British company Rolls-Royce Marine, she was built in Chile and weighs in at nearly 4,000 tonnes.
Thor’s owners are understandably proud of this very capable vessel, the Iceland Coast Guard responding to my request for information about her within minutes of receiving an email.
Thor is a robust multi-role ship which performs roles as diverse as military patrols to tug boat duties. She would be quite a match for a modern-day Royal Navy frigate. Fortunately both Thor and British frigates are scarce commodities these days, and are unlikely to serve their nations as ocean-going battering rams.
Rolls-Royce clearly based Thor’s design on large offshore tugs and support ships used in the service of the oil and gas industry. Thor differs from her civilian counterparts in a number of key ways.
She carries three radar systems, exceeding the standards laid out under maritime regulations. Her surface sensors are complemented by a Synthetic Aperture Sonar which provides high resolution images of submerged contacts. It is an essential piece of kit for one of Thor’s many roles - Hydrographic surveying.
With a command and communication system Thor can control search and rescue operations and although not fitted with a helicopter flight deck, she can refuel helicopters via a system called HIFR.
Should Thor come across a vessel on fire, she has the equipment to tackle the flames. Any environmental mess left over can be taken care of with her oil recovery system. If a ship is disabled, Thor’s 120 tonne bollard pull rating makes her a capable emergency tug.
Here she is in action.
For fishery protection, rescue, Exclusive Economic Zone duties, and border control, Thor can deploy two Norsafe Magnum 750 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats which are capable of speeds of up to 35 knots.
Should the need arise; Thor can fend off unwelcome attention with a BAE Systems Bofors 40mm gun, and two machine guns.
Pushed through the water by a brace of Rolls-Royce Bergen diesel engines which send 9,000 KW via two gearboxes to a pair of low-drag feathering propellers, Thor can make nearly 20 knots. She also has thrusters to help her berth and remain on station at sea.
Her 90m long hull is strengthened to Class 1B standard so her 48-strong crew can take her amongst ice flows on extended northern patrols.
Thor is now in her 4th year of service with the Iceland Coast Guard, her presence in a sea area populated not just by fishing vessels but increasingly by arctic cruise ships is no-doubt a reassuring one to those who venture to this inhospitable part of the world.