Ice-cold gloom for Russia’s new super-powerful icebreaker

Russia recently decided to build only one vessel from its super-powerful icebreaker project, not three as originally planned, and the price and construction period is expected to by far exceed original estimates. (Atle Staalesen/The Independent Barents Observer)

Budgets are massively overrun and it is not clear when the 120 MW nuclear-powered vessel will be ready for sailing.

The icebreaker that has been given the name “Rossiya” will be like no other vessel ever seen in the Arctic. With a power of 120 MW it will be able to crush through 4 meter thick ice and open large lanes for escorted ships across the most difficult parts of the Northern Sea Route.

The “Lider”-class is designed to mark a watershed in Arctic shipping.

But the project is already marred by trouble. Russia recently decided to build only one vessel of the kind, not three as originally planned, and the price and construction period is expected to by far exceed original estimates.

According to newspaper Kommersant, the project could ultimately become up to 60 percent more expensive than planned. That could bring the price to 200 billion rubles (€2,4 billion).

And the icebreaker will clearly not be commissioned in 2027 as planned. By mid-March this year, only five percent of construction – not 15 percent as planned – was completed, people familiar with the project say.

Problems obtaining components

The Zvezda Yard outside Vladivostok in the Russian Far East has reportedly major problems with obtaining key building components. Hull casting and mounting arms, as well as other equipment, was originally to be delivered by the Ukrainian company Energomashspetsstal in 2022. But, paradoxically, the Ukrainian plant was destroyed by Russian bombing and has halted production.

Vladimir Putin has been briefed about the situation.

The Northern Sea Route has long been a key priority for the state leader. The ambitious plans for shipping in the area might not be achieved without the “Rossiya.” Putin has requested at least 80 million tons of goods on the route by 2024 and an annual 130 million tons by 2035.

The Lider (project 10510) will be equipped with two RITM-400 type nuclear reactors and have a total capacity of 120 MW, twice the power of the currently most powerful icebreakers.

The Russian government in January 2020 awarded a 127 billion ruble contract for the ship construction to Rosneft’s brand new Zvezda Yard.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Baffinland critical of report that says shipping to blame for narwhal displacement, CBC News

IcelandNew guideline launched for Arctic-specific risk assessment in shipping, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Old icebreakers eye upgrades for Murmansk-Vladivostok tourism, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: U.S. Coast Guard talks Arctic at recent summit, Eye on the Arctic

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

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

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