Icebreakers to break the Northern Sea Route

The Russian Government will allocate 118 billion roubles for two additional 60-MW icebreakers.

Rosatom has succeeded in securing additional financing for development of the Northern Sea Route infrastructure. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin instructed to allocate 118 billion roubles from the budget until 2030 for construction of two additional nuclear-powered icebreakers and 25 billion rubles for construction of a nuclear service vessel. About 7 billion roubles will be allocated for construction of the ports “Sever Bay” and “Northern Star”. Financing will allow year-round transportation of goods eastwards, which, according to analysts, will be the most promising direction against the backdrop of sanctions.

According to the Prime Minister’s instructions dated 15 April 2022, the Ministry of Finance shall provide for allocation of financing for construction of two additional 60-MW icebreakers in 2023 -2030. The icebreakers are expected to be launched by 2028 and 2029. Rosatom and the Ministry of Finance confirmed to Kommersant that they had started working on the instructions.

Rosatom has already built two 60-MW nuclear-powered icebreakers of Arktika type, three more are under construction, so as the 120-MW leader icebreaker of the Leader project.  Taking into account the Prime Minister’s instructions, by 2030 Rosatom may have eight new nuclear-powered icebreakers and 50 Let Pobedy with extended service life.  It is also planned to build four privately-financed LNG-powered icebreakers.

New icebreakers are needed for year-round export of goods from the Arctic eastwards. According to the Government plans, the transportation of goods along the Northern Sea Route (NSR) is to increase from 35 million tons in 2021 to 80 million tons by 2024, and up to 150 million tons by 2035.

Rosatom has been seeking funding for new icebreakers for several years, but, as known to Kommersant, it has faced serious resistance from the Ministry of Finance.

Now the Prime Minister has instructed to additionally allocate 25 billion roubles for construction of a nuclear service vessel, which is planned to be built by 2028 to service new icebreakers, in particular for reloading of nuclear fuel.

In addition, Rosatom will receive the functions to organize navigation on the NSR, previously performed by the Ministry of Transport. The Government decided to redistribute powers and authority after over two dozen ships had got stuck in NSR waters in the autumn of 2021.

Rosatom, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Transport are to also allocate 6.7 billion roubles for construction of the state-owned facilities in the Taimyr ports ” Sever Bay ” (for export of oil from the Rosneft’s Vostok Oil project) and “Northern Star” (for export of coal from the Syradasaysky field of the AEON Corporation established by Roman Trotsenko). These funds will be used for construction of the mooring wall, dredging and ice protection facilities. Previously, these funds were intended for construction of an Arc7 ice-class hydrographic vessel, but it was not possible to find a shipyard for its construction. Initially it was planned to build three hydrographic vessels, now the plans will be adjusted.

“In the current geopolitical situation the NSR is the shipping route mostly protected from external influence, making implementation of major economic projects possible,” Rosatom emphasizes.

Rosatom mentions that they have performed systematic work since the beginning of 2021 to form measures for development of the NSR infrastructure. “The result was the support of the Prime Minister, approved by the President, regarding decisions on rapid implementation of measures to develop the NSR as a maritime transport corridor that ensures connectivity of the Far Eastern and Northwestern regions of Russia, as well as an international corridor for transportation of Russian products to the markets of the Asia-Pacific region.

Due to the large-scale Western sanctions, it is Asia that will become the most promising, if not the only one, direction for the Russian industry, Mikhail Grigoriev, Head of Consulting Center Gekon, believes. In his opinion, further construction of 60-MW icebreakers, not the “giants” of the “Leader” type, is a strategically correct decision that will provide work load for the Baltic Shipyard and its Russian contractors. Besides, according to the expert, building the same type of vessels is easier and cheaper.


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