Port of Rotterdam Sells its Last Icebreaker Tug

Rotterdam sells its last icebreaker
RPA 20 was the icebreaker (Port of Rotterdam)

Published Mar 26, 2021 2:25 PM by The Maritime Executive

As another sign of changes in the global climate, the Port of Rotterdam sold its last icebreaker tug. According to the port, the tug had not been used to break ice in nearly a decade.

“Whereas prior to the war (World War II), you could walk across the Maas from south to north, winters are no longer cold enough to cause thick ice formation,” says the Port of Rotterdam. “The last time the RPA 20 served as an icebreaker was in 2012 to make the Delfshavense Schie passable for inland shipping.” After eight years, the port decided that there was not enough need to justify keeping a special vessel on standby in top-notch condition.

Built in the 1960s at the Hendriks shipyard in Dodewaard, Netherlands, the vessel known as RPA 20 was part of a series of four equipped to break ice around the port complex. The other three vessels had all previously been retired by the port authority.

The vessels continued a long tradition of icebreaking capabilities at the port. They used a special design to make it possible to break through ice that built up around the port and on the inland waterways during the winter months.

In order to work as an icebreaker, the vessels were fitted with a reinforced bow. When they were being used for this function, the stern was ballasted with water, causing the vessel to slope slightly backward. This ensures that the propeller sat deeper in the water, preventing damage and enabling the reinforced bow to glide somewhat higher over the ice. The ice would break when the vessel sailed against or over the ice.

RPA 20 had been in service in the port since 1963 but had been refurbished in the 1990s. Each of the four vessels measured 77 feet in length with a 20-foot beam.

The vessel departed the port of Rotterdam today for delivery to her new owners. She was sold to a contractor Zijsling en Zonen BV from Jutrijp, the Netherlands that provides dredging services as well as water transport, transshipment, quay improvements, and salvage operations.