Fire Breaks Out Aboard Russia’s Nuclear-Powered Containership

nuclear-powered containership
Fire broke out aboard the nuclear-powered containership while it was docked in Murmansk (FSUE Atomflot file photo)

Published Dec 25, 2023 1:04 PM by The Maritime Executive


Russian state officials confirmed that there was a small fire aboard the nuclear-powered containership Sevmorput on Sunday evening, December 24. The fire is garnering extensive international attention because the vessel is the only nuclear-powered containership and only one of a handful of nuclear merchant ships run by FSUE Atomflot, with the others being icebreakers for the Northern Sea Route.

The Emergency Situation Ministry insists that it was a small fire that was quickly extinguished while the vessel was on dock in Murmansk. They said the ministry sent a fire crew to the vessel late on Sunday to assist with the firefight, which was limited to a single cabin in the accommodations area of the Sevmorput. The report says an area of 300 square feet was damaged with the fire being extinguished in less than an hour and never approaching the vessel’s reactor.

Unconfirmed online reports said that it appeared two tugs were also sent to the Sevmorput. The tugs were observed moving away a second vessel which was alongside the containership.

Built between 1982 and 1988, the 61,000 dwt vessel is reported to have a capacity for 1,336 containers as well as 74 lighters. The Russian agency reports that the Sevmorput has traveled 302,000 miles and transported more than 1.5 million tons of cargo and during her carrier with only one nuclear reactor recharge. The plan had been to retire the vessel in 2014, but the state later decided to refurbish her adding new cranes and more lighter capacity to support the growth of the Norther Sea Route. According to the reports, she was designed to sail independently in ice fields up to one meter thick at a speed of about two knots and up to 20 knots in clear water.


Ship recently reached Murmansk after her three subsidized 2023 coastal voyages transporting cargo on the Northern Sea Route *FSUE Atomflot)


The vessel recently arrived in Murmansk at the end of her 2023. She is mostly used for subsidized coastal voyages along the Northern Sea Route. Her 2023 season began on June 24 from St. Petersburg to the ports of Vostochny, Petropavlosk-Kamchatsky, and Murmansk. She was loaded with containers, metal structures, lumber, cranes, and vehicles for shipment to the Far East using about 90 percent of her cargo capacity. She reached Vostochny on July 7 after a 23-day voyage. She departed Petropavlosk-Kamchatsky on July 30 carrying 204 refer FEUs loaded with seafood bound for Murmansk.

Her captain said the voyages were challenging in 2023 because parts of the Kara Sea were still ice-covered. However, the containership was able to proceed without assistance or escort delivering 5,500 tons of frozen seafood.

The Sevmorput added a third subsidized voyage for 2023 that departed St. Petersburg on October 13. She began the return on November 15 from Petropavlosk-Kamchatsky again carrying containers of frozen seafood to St. Petersburg where she arrived on December 5.

After her final voyage, she returned to her home port of Murmansk for the winter lay-up. In addition to her, FSUE Atomflot lists that it has a fleet of nine nuclear-powered icebreakers for the Northern Sea Route.