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Atomflot Mobilizes Icebreakers to Help Shipping on Northern Sea Route

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Arktika departing shipyard for sea trials, September 2020 (Atomflot file image)

Published Dec 3, 2021 12:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Arktika, Russia's newest nuclear icebreaker, has completed post-repair sea trials and departed St. Petersburg for the Northern Sea Route, where she will join a concerted effort to help out marine traffic in heavy ice. The brand-new vessel has been undergoing warranty repairs since July, primarily for the replacement of a propulsion motor.

Her restoration and re-entry into service is well-timed, as traffic on the NSR has been impeded by early ice formation. The sudden ice-up has blocked shipments of construction materials for multiple infrastructure projects along the route, and it left several merchant vessels briefly stranded. 

Arktika, the world’s most powerful versatile nuclear icebreaker, is now back to her routine operations,” commented Mustafa Kashka, CEO of operator Atomflot. “With the new propulsion motor, we have reached the design capacity of 60 MW. Arktika will not stop at her homeport but will provide icebreaker assistance to vessels along the Northern Sea Route as the ice conditions there are challenging."

Three other Atomflot nuclear icebreakers - the Vaygach, Taymyr and Yamal - are already on scene and helping out operations on the Northern Sea Route. Vaygach is assisting an eight-vessel convoy - including the cargo ships Kumpula, Selenga, Vladimir Rusanov, Severny Proekt, RZK Konstanta, Turukhan, Grigory Shelikhov and Mechanic Pustoshny - and is making good progress through the route's cold eastern stretch. 

“The convoy has passed the Vilkitsky Strait, one of the most challenging Northern Sea Route segments,” said Leonid Irlitsa, First Deputy Director General for Navigation at Atomflot. “It is the first time that we are providing icebreaker assistance at this time of the year. Vaygach’s captain has to take into account that each vessel in the convoy has different performance capabilities. Right now the convoy is navigating the Matisen Strait.”

The Taymyr and Yamal are tasked with operations under long-term service contracts. The nuclear icebreaker 50 Years of Victory (50 Let Pobedy) will also leave for the Northern Sea Route once her repairs are completed in early December.