New icebreakers open way for Russia in Arctic

Icebreaker in Russia's Pacific port of Vladivostok, about 6,400 km (4,000 miles) east of Moscow. (AP)
Icebreaker in Russia’s Pacific port of Vladivostok, about 6,400 km (4,000 miles) east of Moscow. (AP)
Russia is building an armada of new icebreakers which will substantially strengthen its presence in Arctic waters.

The higher the ambitions in the Arctic, the more icebreakers under construction. That appears to be the case, at least for Russia. The country currently has at least 14 icebreakers under construction and several more under planning.

In addition, several other kinds of icebreaking vessels are under construction, among them special LNG tankers.

The construction of the new vessels is all concentrated on yards located in and around St Petersburg. While the Baltiisky Yard is constructing the new generation nuclear-powered icebreakers, the Admiralty Yard and the Vyborg Yard produce diesel-engined vessels. Also the Yantar Yard in Kaliningrad has been involved in construction processes. In addition, the Russian-owned Arctech Yard in neighboring Finland is delivering icebreaking vessels for Russian stakeholders.

LK-60 (project 22220)

The biggest and most powerful of all the new vessels is under construction at the Baltiisky Yard. The nuclear-powered LK-60 icebreaker (project 22220) will be the world’s most powerful icebreaking vessel – 173 meters long, 34 meters wide and able to sail in 3-meter thick ice. It will be part of the state-owned Rosatomflot fleet of nuclear icebreakers based in Murmansk. Russia intends to build at least two of this class vessel, the first to be ready by the end of 2019, the other by the end of 2020.

LK-25 (project 22600)

The Baltiisky Yard is also constructing the world’s most powerful diesel-engined icebreaker. The LK-25  (project 22600) will be 146,8 meters long and have a deadweight of 22258 tons. It will have a crew of 38 and will be able to operate autonomously for 60 days in up to two meters thick ice. The vessel named “Viktor Chernomyrdin It is built for the Russian state company Rosmorport and was orginally to be completed by the end of 2015. However, delays have been reported from the yard.

Project 21180

Also the Russian Armed Forces and the oil industry are ordering icebreakers. The Admiralty Yard in St.Petersburg in late April this year started the construction of the first offour icebreakers of the 21180 project for the Ministry of Defence. The diesel-engined “Ilya Muromets” will be 84 meters long, 20 meters wide and will have a cruising capacity of 60 days. It is planned to be ready by 2017.

Icebreakers for Ob Bay

Gas company Novatek and its Yamal LNG project will need icebreaker assistance for its grand Sabetta port on the Yamal Peninsula coast. In April this year, Rosatom signed a contract with the Vyborg Yard on the construction of a 10 MW icebreaker which is accompany tankers to and from Sabetta. The deal is part of Rosatom’s bigger agreement with the Yamal LNG consortium.

Oil company Gazprom Neft has ordered a 22 MW icebreakers from the Vyborg Yard. The vessel, which is designed by the Finnish Aker Arctic Technology, will operate in the Ob Bay where the company is in the process of opening the Novy Port oil project.

Project 21900

Another three diesel-engined vessels of the project 21900 are under construction at the Vyborg Yard. One of them, the “Vladivostok”, is to be ready for handover to owner Rosmorport in the course of spring 2015, while another two, the “Murmansk” and the “Novorossiisk” are to be completed in the course of the year. Two other ships of the kind have already been constructed at the Baltic Yard in 2008 and 2009 respectively. The project 21900 project is developed for large-scale oil tanker assistance, as well as towing, transportation and rescue missions in icy waters.

Icebreaker R-70202

In the Russian-owned Arctech Helsinki Shipyard, an icebreaker of the type R-70202 is under construction. The “Murmansk” vessel was floated out of the yard dry dock in April this year and a  second vessel of the type is in the process.

The Russian icebreaking development program comes at a price. The contract signed by Rosatom with the Baltiisky Yard in 2014 has a cost frame of 84.4 billion rubles (€1.45 billion). The LK-25 vessel is estimated to have a price tag of about 8 billion rubles (€140 million). It is not clear how much the Ministry of Defence will pay for their four icebreakers order from the Vyborg Yard.

Related stories from around the North:

Asia:  Full steam ahead for Asian icebreakers in the Arctic this summer, Blog by Mia Bennett

Canada: Canada’s Arctic patrol ships – A $250M mystery, CBC News

Finland: New Finland icebreaker can operate sideways with asymmetrical hull, Yle News

Russia: Four nuclear submarines under construction in Russia’s Far North, Yle News

Sweden: Swedish icebreakers gear up for Arctic role, Radio Sweden

United States: New ferry contract part of effort to create shipbuilding industry in Alaska, Alaska Dispatch

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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