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North Pole platform is due to be accepted on July 1, 2022

The platform will be used for long-term experiments, data processing on the spot and for transmitting results to the mainland

ST. PETERSBURG, September 9. /TASS/. The acceptance act for the ice-resistant self-propelled North Pole platform, construction of which continues at the Admiralty Shipyards, St. Petersburg, will be signed in summer, 2022, the Shipyard’s Director General Alexander Buzakov told Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Alexander Kozlov on Tuesday.

"On September 25, we will receive energy from the shore and will begin the mooring tests, and in March of next year the platform will undergo sailing tests, which will not be long, and on July 1 we plan to sign the acceptance act," the director general said.

The tests, due in summer, 2022, will be in the Baltic Sea, the minister added.

"In development of our northern territories we will rely on results of studies, which scientists will conduct on the platform," he said.

The contract on building of the North Pole ice-resistant self-propelled platform between the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (Roshydromet) and the Admiralty Shipyards (St. Petersburg) was signed in spring, 2018. The platform will resume traditional operations of the North Pole drifting expeditions, which in the early 2000s were suspended due to the climate changes. The shipbuilders have analyzed the entire history of the North Pole drifting stations and offered an optimal variant of a floating structure for long-term work of scientific observatories. The platform was launched on December, 18, 2020.

In July, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced the government would allocate more than 1 billion rubles ($13.6 million) for the North Pole’s construction and tests, which were due to begin in 2022. Earlier, Director of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI, St. Petersburg) Alexander Makarov expressed hope the platform would be built before 2023. Even though the platform is still under construction, the scientists will work on plans for the research program, which will be conducted later on onboard the North Pole. The institute will coordinate the plans with Russian and foreign counterparts.

"We are making plans for years ahead. As soon as the platform is ready, labs will be working continuously. The tasks may change in 10-15 years, and thus the vessel is made so that the labs could be upgraded easily to fit new tasks," the institute’s director told reporters. "The draft research program is ready. In working on it we have used the earlier experience in organizing AARI’s floating stations. We have also used international experience, including that of the Mosaic expedition - it has been drifting near the North Pole for a year. Our institute has participated in this international project. The foreign counterparts eye with great interest the opportunities to work in the Arctic on our platform year-round, and I hope we will manage to organize joint studies."

In September, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin at the Eastern Economic Forum suggested an initiative in the framework of Russia’s chairing the Arctic Council to organize an international expedition to the Arctic’s high latitudes. The expedition’s base should be the ice-resistant North Pole platform, he said.

Platform’s opportunities

AARI’s press service told TASS the platform would be able to come to planned destinations without icebreakers and to drift in the Arctic Ocean for up to two years, and then to return to the port. The platform will be used for long-term experiments, data processing on the spot and for transmitting results to the mainland.

The platform is 83 meters long, its breadth is about 22 meters, and it is more than 11 meters high. The vessel’s hull can resist the compression of long-term ice, which has been confirmed in model experiments in the ice pool. Expedition members - 34 researchers and 14 crew members - will have comfortable and safe working and living conditions onboard. In addition, one of the decks will have a runway for Mil Mi-8 and Mi-38 helicopters.

The ice-resistant platform will accommodate onboard 15 scientific laboratories, which cover an exhaustive range of the Arctic natural environment: ionospheric observations, geological, chemical and environmental studies, studies of ice loads and the mechanics of ice destruction, studies of acoustic tomography of the Arctic basin, studies of the planetary boundary layer and the free atmosphere, magnetic and gravitational studies, and much more.

According to the institute’s press service, when the North Pole platform gets to the Arctic waters, on drifting ice, some 400-500 meters from the vessel, the expedition will organize a mobile field camp with small houses to accommodate labs, where scientists will conduct studies in the natural environment. Presently, in the Russian Arctic remain two permanent bases: the Cape Baranov Ice Base, where 20 people are working, and the Russian scientific center on the Spitsbergen Archipelago, which employs 10 people.