Sanctions are biting on Russian icebreaker builders

Icebreaker designed by Aker Arctic for Nornickel. (AkerArctic)

Companies Nornickel and Rosneft have scrapped plans for the building of high-tech icebreakers fuelled by LNG. The vessels will instead be diesel-engined, Deputy Head of Rosatom’s Northern Sea Route Directorate Maksim Kulinko confirms.

The two companies each planned to build two powerful icebreakers fuelled by LNG. But the war against Ukraine and subsequent international sanctions has led to a change of plans.

“Preliminary, we looked at the opportunity to build icebreakers fuelled with LNG, but considering the sanctions and the companies’ revision of plans, both Nornickel and Rosneft confirm that they [instead] are interested in building diesel icebreakers,” Kulinko explains.

He adds that his company is “still in negotiations” with Novatek, PortNews reports.

Liquified natural gas has over the past years increasingly been seen as a prospective fuel for the powerful icebreaking vessels. Interest has grown as Novatek has developed its grand LNG plants along the Russian Arctic coast. The Yamal LNG now alone produces up to 18 million tons per year and could easily provide needed fuel for the vessels.

Rosneft, Novatek and Nornickel are all in need of enhanced icebreaker capacity as new industrial projects are under development along the remote and icy north Russian coast. The original plan was that each of the companies would build two ships operating on LNG.  The two former companies would build their vessels at the new Zvezda yard in Vladivostok, while Nornickel would cooperate with the Helsinki Shipyard Oy.

Finnish company Aker Arctic has been a close partner to Nornickel and the projected 45 MW icebreakers are based on Finnish design. The ships will have ice class Arc8 and engines that can operate both on LNG and diesel fuel.

The two companies in January 2022 signed a contract on the ships that will be designed for Nornickel’s operations in the Kara Sea and Yenisey River.

However, the future of the ships might now be uncertain. According to Nornickel Vice President Sergei Dubovitsky, the construction now faces certain “limitations.”

Related stories from around the North :

Canada: Canadian icebreaker project estimated at $7.25 billion, Eye on the Arctic

Denmark/Greenland: New guideline launched for Arctic-specific risk assessment in shipping, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Finland’s aging icebreaker fleet needs modernization, Yle News

Iceland: Int’l Arctic emergency marine exercise will lead to better response coordination, say participants, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: The Viking Sky incident – A wake-up call for the Arctic cruise industry?, Eye on the Arctic

Russia : Finnish shipbuilders contract powerful icebreaker for Russian Arctic, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: ‘Uber for icebreakers’ idea gains traction in U.S. Senate, 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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