Largest icebreaker construction now underway

Rendering of the new LK-70 icebreaker, for which the keel has been laid at the Baltic Shipyard in St Petersburg Rendering of the new LK-70 icebreaker, for which the keel has been laid at the Baltic Shipyard in St Petersburg
Industry Database

Work has begun in Russia on a new nuclear-powered icebreaker, considerably larger and more powerful than any existing vessel, while a smaller Russian icebreaker soon to be completed in Finland, offers a novel approach to clearing wide channels, writes Dag Pike.

As part of the Russian programme to open up the Northern Sea route across the Arctic and to assist with the exploitation of the natural resources in the region, a Russian shipyard has started construction of the world’s largest icebreaker. Russia already has the world’s only fleet of very powerful nuclear powered icebreakers, but the new vessel will be by far the largest and most powerful ever built.

The keel of the new vessel has been laid at Baltiysky Zavod (Baltic Shipyard) in St.Petersburg and completion of this major newbuilding project is scheduled for 2017. The new icebreaker is codenamed LK60. The length of the vessel will be 173.3m on a 34m beam. The wide beam will allow the vessel to cut a channel through ice which will be sufficient in width for tankers up to 70,000dwt. Previously two icebreakers working together were necessary to cut a wide enough channel for these larger ships.

The LK-60 has been designed with a variable draught. In open waters the vessel would operate at a minimum draft of 10.5m but this measurement can be reduced to 8.55m when the icebreaker is operating in inshore waters and in rivers. The difference in draught is achieved through a specially-designed ballasting system.

The design of this icebreaker was originally developed by CDB Aisberg back in 2009. LK-60 will be the first such ship with the capability of creating a channel through ice up to 3m thick, which will allow shipping routes in the Arctic to stay operational through longer winter periods.

The nuclear power unit for LK-60 will be a new design of liquid cooled pressurised water reactor developed by Rosatom’s Nizhniy Novagorod located OKBM Afrikantov. This is claimed to be half the size of existing reactors and to be more reliable and economical, with the core needing refuelling every seven years. The lifespan of this icebreaker is expected to be around 40 years. This reactor is said to have a capacity of 170MW, and this will be applied with a total propulsion power of 60MW divided between three shafts.

Reports say that the ship will be named Arktika as a tribute to a former prominent Soviet nuclear-powered icebreaker of the same name, which was the first surface ship to reach the North Pole. Russia is due to build three such icebreakers in the next decade, which are expected to replace four smaller ships. An even more powerful vessel, codenamed LK-110yA, is said to be at the design stage. This will be able to negotiate ice up to 3.5m in thickness, which should allow Arctic navigation through the entire winter period in most years.

The Baltiysky Zavod shipyard has had something of a chequered career, having entered bankruptcy proceedings in 2011. At that time the yard was building a floating nuclear power station. This was based on a pair of the 35MW KLT-40S reactors that were similar to the reactors which powered earlier Russian icebreakers. This nuclear power generation plant will now be delivered to Rosatom in 2016.

Meanwhile, Helsinki Shipyard in Finland has launched the first ever icebreaker that travels sideways when breaking ice. This innovative new design which was developed by the parent company of the yard, Arctec, has been designed to enable it to cut a channel through the ice that is wide enough for larger ships.

This new vessel, called the Baltika, is being built for the Russian Agency of Sea and River Transport and will be operated by FGI Gosmorspassluzhba, the Russian Marine Emergency Rescue Service. It is scheduled for spring 2014 completion and is the first in a series of four being built under this contract. In addition to its primary icebreaking role, the Baltika is equipped for rescue operations and for combating oil pollution so it will have a year round role in its operating area of the Gulf of Finland.

The Baltika features an asymmetric hull design with the stern shape different on each side. This patented concept allows the hull to travel obliquely through ice and is claimed to be a "revolution in icebreaking techniques". It allows the vessel to create a 50m wide channel through ice of 0.6m thickness, while being able to create a narrower channel in 1m ice when travelling directly ahead or astern. The oil recovery system installed on board is suitable for use in heavy seas.

“It has been great to build the first ever sideways operating ice-going vessel”, said Arctec Helsinki Shipyard MD, Esko Mustamaki. “I believe this vessel will be a benchmark when developing and building innovative Arctec vessels. This icebreaking multipurpose emergency and rescue vessel is technologically advanced and building it required our specialist knowledge and experience.”

The Baltika is 76.4m long with a beam of 20.5m. For a modern icebreaker the installed power is moderate, with three main diesel gensets of 9MW total output, supplying power to three 360° electric azimuthing thrusters. Each thruster is rated 2.5MW, with two astern and one at the bow. All have ice-rated stainless steel propellers.

The Baltika was built in cooperation with the Kaliningrad located shipyard of Yantar JSC. This Russian yard built the steel hull blocks which were transported to Helsinki for assembly in Arctec's covered drydock.

Alexander Davydenko, the head of the Federal Agency for River and Sea transport commented, “This project is very important for the Russian Federation. The building of this vessel and its future operation in the Gulf of Finland is a significant step forward in the cooperation between Finland and Russia”.



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