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The ARICE initiative aims to create a European and international network for joint research icebreaker operations using existing ships. The primary objectives are to increase the coordination of available European heavy icebreakers and to create a mechanism for a more cost-effective use of existing polar research vessels through transnational harmonisation of scientific and operational planning. This new initiative will not only create the intellectual capacity to investigate the urgent scientific questions that are critical for understanding the Earth system, but also to create the operational partnerships that provide first-class scientific platforms to deliver new knowledge.

The next decade is critical for most national marine polar programmes. Each is likely to review or change their infrastructure assets due to an ageing research fleet and budget constraints arising from the global economic situation.

The research operators of POLARSTERN and ODEN, the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat (SPRS) respectively, have submitted the strategy document ARICE: A strategy for meeting the needs for marine research in the Arctic to the EC ‘Consultation on possible topics for future activities for integrating and opening existing national research infrastructures’ that was well received and integrated in the consultation’s Assessment Report of February 2013.