Are the Russian Navy’s modernization plans jeopardized by the sunken dock?

Shipyard No 82 in Roslyakovo, Murmansk Oblast. The dock to the right sank Tuesday morning, damaging the Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s only aircraft carrier. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
Russia’s biggest dry docks might remain on the bottom of the Kola Bay.

The 80,000-ton floating dry dock that, on Tuesday, sunk in the waters outside Shipyard No 82 in Roslyakovo near Murmansk (northwest) might not be lifted, leader of the United Shipbuilding Corporation hints in an interview.

A “complicated and very expensive” operation

“It is not yet clear whether the floating dock at the 82nd shipyard, on which aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov stood, will be raised, Aleksey Rakhmanov told Interfax (in Russian).

According to the company director, the dock is now located in deep waters and a lifting operation “will be complicated and very expensive.”

“To lift the dock, which has a loading capacity of 80,000 tons, is in itself an operation that will cost no small money,” he underlines. He also does not exclude the possibility that the installation might be significantly damaged.

“To say exactly whether it is possible to lift this dock can be done only after divers have studied the condition of the equipment,” he makes clear.

According to the shipyard (in Russian), the water depths in the area of the dock are more than 60 meters.

The floating dock sunk as the aircraft carrier was taken off the installation and onto the water. The accident was reportedly triggered by a power outage.

The floating dock at yard No. 82 in Roslyakovo, seen here with the nuclear battle cruiser Pyotr Velikiy. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
Ships awaiting major upgrades

It is unclear whether the Russian Northern Fleet will be able to follow up its modernization plan after the loss of the dry dock. No other regional installations of the kind are able to handle repair works for Russia’s biggest naval vessels, including the Admiral Kuznetsov, the Pyotr Veliky battle cruiser and the biggest strategic submarines.

Both the Admiral Kuznetsov and the Pyotr Veliky are up for comprehensive upgrades that will require the use of dry docks.

The Admiral Kuznetsov’s upgrades include both navigation equipment and weaponry. All the ship’s electro-mechanical components, including the main propulsion system, will be repaired. Several of the engine boilers will be replaced and the runway will be upgraded. Also, the cruise missile system will be upgraded from Granit missiles to Caliber missiles. According to the original plan, the ship was to be ready for operations in year 2021.

The modernization of Pyotr Velikiy could start that same year, as soon as her sister vessel Admiral Nakhimov is ready to sail. Admiral Nakhimov is currently being modernized at the Sevmash yard in Severodvinsk (northwest Russia).

The floating dry dock in Roslyakovo is the biggest in the whole European part of Russia. It has an operating space of 23,000 square meters and can handle volumes of up to 80,000 tons. It was originally built in Sweden in 1980 and acquired by the Soviet Union a few years later.

Will sue Rosneft

As the dock sunk, two large cranes tilted. One of them fell over the Admiral Kuznetsov, creating a 5-meter wide rift in the ship deck.

Rosneft owns the floating dry dock since it acquired the Shipyard No 82 in Roslyakovo in 2015. The oil company intends to turn the yard into a base for its offshore Arctic oil operations.

The United Shipbuilding Corporation now says that it intends to sue Rosneft and that the oilmen will have to cover costs related to the repair of the damaged ship.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s defence minister says military upgrades part of plan to strengthen Arctic sovereignty, CBC News

Finland: Russian military conducts confidence-building visit to Lapland Air Command in the Finnish Arctic, Radio Canada International

Norway: NATO sending more warships to Northern Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: What Russia’s new Navy Strategy says about the Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Major deal between Sweden’s Saab and U.S. Air Force a “sign of closer transatlantic ties”, says defence expert, Radio Sweden

United States: U.S. Congress authorizes six icebreakers in Pentagon bill, Alaska Public Media

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

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

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