DECEMBER 19, 2012 — While the U.S. Congress continues to try to figure out how to find funding for a much needed expansion of Coast Guard icebreaker capability, the Russian Ministry of Transport continues to expand its icebreaker fleet. It has just awarded Finland's Arctech Helsinki Shipyard and Russia's OJCS Vyborg Shipyard a further contract to build a 16 MW icebreaker.
The total value of the vessel is about EUR 100 million ($132 million). That price tag is of interest in that the U.S. Coast Guard's proposed FY2013 budget included $8 million in acquisition funding to initiate survey and design activities for a new polar icebreaker while the agency's Five Year Capital Investment Plan includes an additional $852 million in FY2014-FY2017 for acquiring the ship. Cynics might find it hard to believe that any U.S. shipbuilder could build a polar icebreaker at lower cost than a Finnish shipbuilder can build an icebreaker with a somewhat lower icebreaking capability.
The issues surrounding U.S. icebreaker acquisition have just been described in a new CRS report, Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress, available HERE (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RL34391.pdf)
The CRS report says the Coast Guard anticipates awarding a construction contract for the ship it is seeking "within the next five years" and taking delivery "within a decade."
Meantime, Arctech Helsinki Shipyard says work on the latest Russian icebreaker project will start immediately and the vessel will be delivered to the client in August 2015. The vessel is planned to be used in year-round operation in the Baltic Sea and in summer season in the Arctic seas. The vessel is able to operate in temperatures as cold as -40°С and the maximum icebreaking capability is 1.5 m. That compares with 1.8 m for the Coast Guard's polar icebreakers.
The vessel belongs to series of three newbuildings ordered by the Russian Ministry of Transport from Vyborg Shipyard. The basic design and purchasing of major components will be provided by Vyborg Shipyard as well as almost half of the vessels hull blocks. Arctech will be responsible of the construction, outfitting and commissioning of the vessel.
"This order is very important for Arctech Helsinki Shipyard. It gives us a good base work load for the next two years. It is also a positive continuation of the icebreaking rescue vessel, that Russian Ministry of Transport ordered a year ago, and which we are building together with Yantar Shipyard", says Esko Mustamäki, Managing Director of Arctech Helsinki Shipyard.
"This order is undoubtedly the next step in the development of co-operation between Vyborg Shipyard and Arctech Helsinki Shipyard. In addition to this, adding one technically advanced vessel to our order books, which the 16 MW icebreaker is, allows both companies to present themselves as forerunners in building icebreaking special vessels", says Aleksandr Solovyev, the Managing Director of Vyborg Shipyard.
The main tasks of the vessel are icebreaking and assisting of heavy-tonnage vessels in ice, towing of vessels and other floating structures in ice and open water. The vessel will also be used for fire fighting on floating objects and other facilities, assisting vessels in distress in ice and open water and also for cargo transportation.
The vessel will measure 119.8 m in length and 27.5 m in breadth. The four main diesel generator sets have the total power of 27 MW. The total propulsion power is 18 MW consisting of two full-circle azimuth thrusters.