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  • 2021 January 18 11:05

    Big Port St. Petersburg marks 60th anniversary of icebreaker assistance

    On 18 January 2021, Saint-Petersburg celebrates a remarkable date – 60 years have passed since icebreakers started operating in the water area of the port, says PortNews TV correspondent. Video on the 60th anniversary of ice navigation in the port of Saint-Petersburg is available here

    Up to 1961, Commercial Seaport of Leningrad (today – Big Port St. Petersburg) was operating only in summer seasons. The port had no forces or facilities to arrange operation of sea-going vessels in frozen waters of the Gulf of Finland. The problem was solved with the construction of new powerful icebreakers in the middle of the twentieth century.

    On 10 October 1960, the Marine Fleet Ministry of the USSR issued an order on the layout of icebreaking and towing ships in seaports for the autumn-winter period of 1960 –1961. The list consisted of freezing non-Arctic ports: Arkhangelsk, Riga, Zhdanov and Leningrad. It was also planned to send the Ministry's experts to Leningrad for looking into extension of the winter navigation for the next years. They were to study hydrosynoptic and navigational conditions in the area.

    The first icebreaking campaign of the Leningrad Region involved the following icebreakers: Moskva, Krasin, Kapitan Voronin, Kapitan Belousov and Sibiryakov. The first winter navigation season in the port lasted till 25 April 1961.

    Aleksandr Volkov, Harbour Master of Big Port St. Petersburg tells PortNews TV: “Our archive, our documents preserved from 1961 let us count the ships assisted from that time. Over the 60-year period, the port registered more than 63,000 ship calls and about 21,000 icebreaker assistance operations with no severe accidents having occurred throughout these years!”

    Ice situation in the Gulf of Finland is very changeable. Some winters are mild and some are very hard. But Russia’s main Baltic port always ensures safety of calling vessels. “I remember that winters used to be harsher, - tells Georgy Melnik, head of a group of instructors of FSUE Rosmorport’s North-Western Basin Branch. - In 70s, when all the Baltic straits were frozen, Germany was frozen, everything was covered with ice and they replaced the floating aids to navigation with concrete guardrails and signs in Germany, our convoys were passing from Leningrad up to the Cape Skagen in the Skagerrak Strait. I can recall three or four winters when the Baltic Sea was completely frozen.”

    Recently, challenging ice conditions in Big Port St. Petersburg were registered in the navigation season of 2010-2011 when icebreaker services were provided from November till the end of April. In that severe winter, it was nuclear-powered icebreaker Vaigach that helped five line diesel icebreakers of the port in the Gulf of Finland waters.

    “Having operated in the Gulf of Finland for almost 2 months, the Vaigach helped to ease the situation with assisting ships out of the Gulf of Finland. That practice was continued later, - tells Aleksandr Volkov. – Throughout the next three winters nuclear-powered icebreakers used to join diesel-electric ones in the Gulf of Finland. In 2012, there were two nuclear-powered icebreakers, the 50 Let Pobedy and the Rossiya, operating in turns.

    FSUE Rosmorport’s fleet of icebreakers has been upgraded considerably by today. In 2020, it was expanded with the Viktor Chernomyrdin, the world’s most powerful diesel-electric icebreaker. It has been built in Saint-Petersburg and it will operate here, in the water area of the Gulf of Finland.

    Icebreaking facilities of Rosmorport are the largest in the world. The company numbers 36 icebreakers and icebreaking tugboats of various capacity.

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