Relevant topics

2015 May 29

Decommissioning and building

Russia is set to build an unrivalled fleet of Arctic class icebreakers: a decision has been made on designing of the Leader Icebreaker with the capacity of up to 130 MW able to break through Arctic ice of any thickness; extension of the series of 60 MW nuclear icebreakers is under discussion. Besides, special port service icebreakers of new generation projects will be built for Arctic terminals of Sabetta and Novy Port.

Arctic icebreakers

The largest Arctic projects on the development of hydrocarbon fields enter the final straight. Oil shipments from Novoportovskoye field have already commenced while the construction of Novy Port terminal will be completed by the end of 2015 to ship oil all year round. The first phase of Yamal-LNG project is to be put into operation in 2017 to export LNG via port Sabetta. Read more >>>> 

Transportation of hydrocarbons along the Northern Sea Route requires extensive icebreaking support. Though Russia is the world’s only country to operate the fleet of nuclear icebreakers and the country’s fleet of icebreakers is the largest worldwide, it is not sufficient for the development of Arctic. The majority of icebreakers are worn-out and obsolete and hardly anything will remain of this fleet if new vessels are not built. FSUE Atomflot currently operates five nuclear icebreakers in the Arctic. The operational life has been extended from 100,000 to 175,000 reactor-h for many of them. All nuclear icebreakers, except for the largest one, 50 Let Pobedy, are to be decommissioned in 2018-22.

Meanwhile, as scientists disagree over warming or cooling to be expected in the Arctic (there are polar forecasts), multi-year ice and operation of the existing Arctic terminals is a current challenge.

A series of three 60 MW nuclear icebreakers of project 22220 is currently under construction at Baltiysky Zavod (Saint-Petersburg, United Shipbuilding Corporation). On May 26, 2015, Baltiysky Zavod llaid down the first serial nuclear-powered icebreaker of Project 22220. The vessel named Sibir is scheduled for delivery in 2019. The lead icebreaker, named Arktika and laid down in November 2013, is to be delivered in 2017. The delivery of the third vessel is scheduled for 2020. 

The series is intended for escorting of large capacity 100,000 DWT tankers with export oil. The icebreakers’ advanced dual-draft capability (8.5 to 10.5 m) makes them suitable for operations both in the Arctic waters and in the mouths of the northern rivers.

The issue of building more icebreakers in the series is under discussion today. The proposal was forwarded by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to RF President Vladimir Putin. The idea has been also backed by Rosatom State Corporation CEO Sergei Kiriyenko. According to Dmitry Rogozin, serial production will let considerably reduce budget allocations for construction of icebreakers (construction of two serial icebreakers costs RUB 84 bln). No final decision on the series extension has been made yet.
If the series is not extended, the year of 2022 will see the reduction of Russia’s fleet of nuclear icebreakers to 4 vessels (three of the mentioned new icebreakers and 50 Let Pobedy). Yet, apart from Arctic and offshore projects Russia is looking into organization of container lines and transit transportation in the Arctic.

At the same time, Sergey Kirienko says a principal decision has been made on the development of the conceptual design for the new Leader Icebreaker. According to Dmitry Rogozin, the vessel’s capacity of 110-130 MW will let break through multi-year ice with thickness of over 4 meters and move pretty easily in the Arctic. Such an icebreaker will be able to escort tankers with deadweight exceeding 200,000 t. The conceptual design is to be developed by the end of 2015 at Krylov State Research Center.  According to Rosatom CEO, federal financing of the project has been launched via the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Port ‘horses’


Apart from ‘long distance’ icebreakers the Arctic needs icebreakers with lower capacity to support navigation within the Arctic ports’ water areas. Representatives of shipping companies have recently said that characteristics of diesel-electric icebreaker Tor of FSUE Rosmorport are not sufficient for efficient operation in Sabetta. 

A 10 MW icebreaker with an innovative propulsion system is to be built for Sabetta by Vyborg Shipyard under the contract signed with FSUE Atomflot in April. The distinctive feature of the vessel is innovative propulsion complex consisting of four thrusters with capacity about 2.5 MW each. The thrusters are located in pairs in bow and in stern that provides maximized operability in ice conditions, excellent maneuverability and performance of special operations in the water area of the Sabetta port. 

Besides, Vyborg Shipyard will build two 22 MW multi-purpose diesel-electric icebreakers for Novy Port. The vessels will be built to the latest design and will have ice class Icebreaker8 ensuring icebreaking capability of up to 2 m and feature high maneuverability and relatively shallow draught. Under the contract, the vessels should be able to operate continuously under the temperature of up to -50 С.

The shipyard has, in its turn, announced a tender to select a designer of such icebreakers. 7 companies have submitted their bids for participation in the tender >>>>  The lowest price has been offered by Krylov State Research Center.

No help from abroad


In fact, domestic organizations prevail in implementation of related orders. First of all, contract for construction of icebreakers have been signed with Russian shipyards but domestic companies are also involved in works beyond the hull building. 

In 2013, TSNII SET (KSRC affiliate) won a tender on development of an integrated electric propulsion system for a nuclear icebreaker of project 22220. In late 2014, signed a contract on delivery of the integrated electric propulsion systems for two serial icebreakers of project 22220. The first system is scheduled to be delivered to the shipyard in June 2016, and the second system — in July 2017. The Contract total value is over 3 billion RUR. As Krylov Center told IAA PortNews, the electric propulsion system includes two voltage generators of 36 MW each, three propulsion motors of 20 MW each, frequency converters for control of propulsion motors, matching transformers, 10 kV switchgear.

Project 22220 series of nuclear-powered icebreakers is being built to the class of Russian Maritime Register of Shipping (RS). While constructing the icebreakers, RS experts carry out survey of their hulls, machinery plants, radio-navigational and electrical equipment, automation equipment, etc. in accordance with the requirements of RS Rules and RS-approved design documentation as well as with all the applicable statutory requirements. 

In fact, Russian Maritime Register of Shipping is the global leader in the development of safety standards for icebreakers and ice class ships. RS is the only classification society in the world to have civil nuclear-powered ships in its class. All the nuclear icebreakers currently operated in Russia have been built with the RS direct participation.

Nevertheless, when speaking about the construction of icebreakers for Arctic development, we should not forget about risks. If global warming is a reality those powerful icebreakers will not be in demand. Production in the Arctic can loose its efficiency amid oil and gas price fluctuation. These are risks with a pretty high likelihood ratio but it is absolutely clear that Russia is going to loose control in the Arctic and yield it to far sighted players, sooner or later, if nothing is being built today.

Vitaly Chernov