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Icebreakers escort twice as many vessels on Northern Sea Route as in 2016

The most intensive route of cargo deliveries is towards the Sabetta port, to which in December 2016 the icebreakers escorted 24 vessels

MURMANSK, March 17. /TASS/. Nuclear icebreakers escorted along the Northern Sea Route in 2016 twice as many vessels year-on-year, director general of the nuclear fleet authority, Atomflot, Vyacheslav Ruksha, told TASS.

"Each of the four icebreakers we have is exploited about nine months a year," he said.

In 2016, nuclear icebreakers escorted 410 vessels of the gross tonnage of 5.2 million tonnes, and in 2015 - 195 vessels of two million tonnes, he added.

The company’s biggest target now is to offer sufficient services of nuclear icebreakers for major national Arctic hydrocarbon projects. "The fleet of nuclear icebreakers is Russia’s competitive advantage in providing for the country’s geopolitical interests in the Arctic," the official said.

Priority is deposits

The most intensive route of cargo deliveries is towards the Sabetta port, to which in December 2016 only the icebreakers escorted 24 vessels, he said. The LNG plant with the capacity of 16.5 million tonnes a year is being built now at the Sabetta port. The plant would be serving the Yuzhno-Taibeiskoye deposit. Atomflot signed a contract with the Yamal LNG developing company, where the contract’s term is to 2040. Most work in waters of the Northern Sea Route is under the contract with Yamal LNG.

The fleet of nuclear icebreakers has a contract to serve the Novy Port (Gazprom Neft) to 2035 - the project’s capacity is 8.5 million tonnes of crude oil a year, the export began in 2015. Every three years, the icebreakers’ company prolongs an export contract with the Norilsk Nickel Company on products exported from the Dudinka port.

Atomflot’s head said some voyages of the icebreakers were unique. In December-January, The 50 Let Pobedy (50 Years of Victory) nuclear icebreaker for the first time in history of the Arctic navigation made a super-late transit escort of a caravan of three vessels from the Chukotka Sea to the Cape Kamenny and the Ob Bay. The nuclear icebreakers are working actively also in the Arctic’s Western Sector, in the Kara Sea, he added.

In February-March, Atomflot’s nuclear icebreakers - The Vaigach and The 50 Let Pobedy - in turns escorted a high-tonnage vessel - the Nordic Bothnia (Panama’s flag) carrying the first consignment of high-quality anthracite from a new deposit in the Taimyr Peninsula. This work in interests of the Arctic Mining Company will continue to June.

New nuclear fleet

The growing cargo deliveries in the Arctic, which are related first of all to development of deposits there, should be served by new nuclear icebreakers, construction of which Atomflot had ordered already. "The existing four nuclear icebreakers are not sufficient already to provide for growing cargo deliveries along the Northern Sea Route," the company’s head said. "Three unique nuclear icebreakers LK60 (The Arktika, The Ural and The Sibir), each of 60MW power, are under construction in St. Petersburg."

New icebreakers have changeable draft from 11.5 to 8.5 meters, thus they may be used as liners (the Arktika type) and as shallow-type (the Taimyr type) nuclear icebreakers. LK60 will be replacing gradually the existing icebreakers, which have been working in the Arctic for a few decades already.

Besides, the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade designs now a technical project for an icebreaker of future - Lider (Leader). This icebreaker will work the year round along the Northern Sea Route. "Thus, rather soon Russia, which has the only in the world fleet of nuclear icebreakers, will strengthen and improve its positions in the Arctic," the official said. "Development of cargo deliveries along the Northern Sea Route, development of the Arctic shelf and transportation of hydrocarbons, escort of the Navy’s vessels and Arctic research - these are the tasks vessels of the Russian nuclear fleet are solving effectively."

Presently, four nuclear icebreakers take vessels along the Northern Sea Route - The Yamal, The 50 Let Pobedy, The Taimyr and The Vaichag.