Polar POD:
The project is officially launched!

22 December 2022 | Members' news

Ifremer, Jean-Louis Etienne and the entire Polar POD team are pleased to announce its construction by the Piriou shipyards in association with 3C Metal, under the direction of the project owner, Ifremer. The scientific program of this international oceanographic “station” is being overseen by the French National Centre for Scientific Research (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, CNRS), in partnership with the French National Centre for Space Studies (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, CNES) and Ifremer.

Several years of work have been required following Ifremer’s appointment as the authority in charge of the construction of the Polar POD in late 2016. Time was spent completing the preliminary design studies with the French marine engineering firm, Ship-ST, to verify the technical and operational feasibility to public investors. Time was also required to develop a scientific program under the leadership of the CNRS, clearly define the specifications of the instrumentation to be integrated on the Polar POD, start the bidding process for potential shipyards and to seek funding.

On August 5, 2022, it was decided that the Piriou/ 3C Metal joint venture had been selected – Piriou shipyards for the construction of the main deck in Brittany, France, and 3C Metal for the construction of the truss, the torus, the bottom box and final assembly in Cape Town, South Africa.

Jean-Louis Etienne: “Polar POD is certainly the most ambitious expedition that I have worked on since 2010. I am not afraid to say that it is my masterpiece. Therefore, the launch of the construction process of this “vertical ship” is a great moment in my life as a polar explorer; it is the fruit of perseverance, nourished by the enthusiasm of the scientific community and the naval engineering office Ship-ST who have accompanied me on this bold project. To dare is to engage your imagination beyond certainties.”

François Houllier, Chairman and CEO of Ifremer: “The project management for the construction of the manned, drifting, oceanographic platform, Polar POD, has been entrusted to Ifremer; it is unquestionably a key step in the overall project which aims to improve knowledge of the Southern Ocean and its ocean–atmosphere interactions. In a relatively unknown area of the planet, this unique platform will enable the collection of valuable scientific information that will complement and enrich the existing range of spatial data and in-situ data.”

Vincent Faujour, President of Piriou Group: “We are very happy to take part in this audacious adventure and to take up a technological challenge that is perfectly in line with Piriou’s innovation strategy and its commitment to decarbonizing maritime transport.”

Philippe Boy, President of 3C Metal: “The award of this project to 3C Metal in joint venture with Piriou shipyards is the perfect illustration of our diversification strategy for the company’s activities. All 3C Metal teams are on board to make this unique and ambitious project a true success.”


A cross between an oceanographic platform and a drifting lighthouse, Polar POD is one of a kind. It is designed to face the “furious fifties” and the highest waves on the planet. It will sail for three consecutive years with no planned return to land, which will require equipment that is easy to use, robust and tested. Environmentally sustainable, the platform will produce all the energy it needs using wind turbines, which will require very strict management of the vessel’s energy expenditure.

The construction process started on September 1, 2022, and will continue for a period of 2 years. Several sea trials off the coast of South Africa will be required before the scheduled departure of the expedition from Port Elizabeth in South Africa in the last quarter of 2024.


Due to the distance, its immensity and its limited accessibility, little is known about the Antarctic Ocean. The scientific community is unanimous; we need long-term, in-situ measurements. Driven by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), the Polar POD will circumnavigate the Antarctic Circle twice, making it three years of an uninterrupted campaign with the following main objectives:

  • Continuous measurement of atmosphere/ocean exchanges, in particular the CO2 absorption capacity of the planet’s main ocean carbon sink.
  • Recording marine biodiversity by acoustics, from krill to whales.
  • Calibration of measurements made by satellites: weather conditions, sea states, ocean color,measurement of phytoplankton for spatial monitoring of biological activity.
  • Assessment of current pollution of the ocean: microplastics, organic pollutants, heavy metalsand aerosols.The construction of the Polar POD has received funding from the French government under the management of the National Research Agency (Agence Nationale de la Recherche) under the future investment program integrated into France 2030 (reference ANR-20-EQPX-001) (France 2030 is France’s investment plan which focuses on sectors of France’s industrial future by the year 2030). This symbolic scientific research project will position France among the leading nations in the field of ocean sciences, and will demonstrate its ability to build equipment at the cutting edge of new technologies. It is part of the deep seabed exploration (grands fonds marins) objective of France 2030.

Illustration Polar POD © N. Gagnon