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Russian Ice-Capable Ships

Modern Arctic navigation depends on specially designed ships, built to the highest ice classification, which requires thick steel capable of resisting both shock and low temperatures, backed up with exceptionally heavy framing. Ships capable of operating without an icebreaker escort will be designed with an ice bow or stern, capable of crushing thick ice, using both forward motion and the mass of the vessel. Some novel tanker types have been designed to operate stern-first in ice, the pod mounted propellers helping to break the ice. Many large icebreakers built for this high latitude work also have propellers at both ends of the ship for the same reason.

The Arctic Ocean's ice-covered surface is becoming sufficiently ice-free to encourage more ship traffic. But few are suggesting that it will become completely ice-free in the near term. Thus, more, not fewer, ice-capable ships would be required in the coming decades.

The striking thinning and downward trend in the extent of Arctic sea ice is regarded as a considerable opportunity for shippers. Continued reduction in sea ice should result in more ice-free ports, improved access to ports and natural resources in remote areas, and longer shipping seasons. For next several decades, however, warming is likely to result in greater variability in year-to-year shipping conditions and higher costs due to requirements for stronger ships and support systems such as ice-capable ships, icebreaker escorts, and search and rescue support.

Over the long term, beyond this century, shippers are looking forward to new Arctic shipping routes, including the fabled Northwest Passage, which could provide significant costs savings in shipping times and distances. However, the next few decades are likely to be very unpredictable for shipping through these new routes. The past three decades have seen very high year-to-year variability of sea ice extent in the Canadian Arctic, despite the overall decrease in September sea-ice extent. And the manner in which ice blockages control ice movement through the channels of the Canadian Archipelago may actually place more icebergs in the shipping channels of the Northwest Passage in the coming decades.

Russian Noril'sk-type vessels are multipurpose, hull-strengthened cargo ships of the highest ice classification. Although the July-through-October Noril'sk speeds are competitive with those attained on the Suez and Panama routes, the slower speeds for the rest of the year offset the savings in distance. The estimated speeds that can be attained with the Russians' nuclearpowered LASH (lighter aboard ship) vessel show a freight transportation efficiency that may prove competitive, however. The LASH Sevmorput is a shallow-draft, icebreaking barge/container carrier that is designed to transport up to 74 barges (lighters) or 1300 standard cargo containers. It has an open-water capability of 20 knots but, more importantly, it does not require icebreaker escort in ice less than 1 m thick. The Russians hope that the LASH, and the Noril'sk in convoy with Arktika-class icebreakers, will play a major role in opening the Northern Sea Route for year-round traffic.

New ship-building technologies have been developed for operation in ice-covered waters. Shipbuilders in South Korea and Finland are finding ways of building better ice-capable oil and gas tankers. Using new propulsion technology (called an Azipod) that allows a propeller to be swiveled 360 degrees under the ship, companies such as Samsung Heavy Industries are building tankers that have a normal ocean-going bow at the front but also have an ice-breaking bow at the stern. So they go forward in ice-free waters, but when they meet ice, they turn their propeller around and go backward. This means that these ships are able to operate in both ice-covered and ice-free waters. The first such vessels, being built for the Russian Arctic, have been very successful. In non-arctic ice covered seas the principle has been used successfully since 1990 in the Baltic and Caspian Sea with excellent operational performance and experience.

Unlike the 'ice bow' tanker which is considered to operate with icebreakers assistance although possibility of independent operation may not be totally ruled out, the Double Acting tanker is considered to have a reliable 'independent operation option' readily available. Of course icebreaker assistance can be used also as a supplement or when conditions exceed the design definition. The Double Acting principle includes providing the tanker with electric propulsion machinery that is an optimal solution for operation in ice. Generators driven usually by diesel engines produce electric power, but turbines may also be used. Electric propeller motors located in azimuthing propeller pods can run equally and without limitations in both directions, which allow the vessel excellent maneuverability and steering both ahead and astern. A 'normal' vessel provided with 'normal arrangement of propeller and rudder' cannot be steered when reversing, and in ice the rudder prohibits astern operation totally anyway.

The Double Acting principle allows the vessel to be designed with a bulbous bow for open water efficiency, because heavy or heaviest ice operation is best done astern. Provided with a bulb the vessel can hardly proceed ahead in ice conditions and is using normally astern operation any time in ice, both in thin and thick ice, in rubbles and ridges. Of course the achieved speed in easy ice conditions will be high in astern operation also, but will decrease when the conditions get more difficult, and finally the vessel will proceed at slow creeping speed in the most difficult ridges or other problematic ice formations. The astern operation does not need ramming if the vessel stops for a while because the ice is destroyed and removed by the propeller.

In June 2007 something unique began taking shape in St. Petersburg, Russia. That's when the keel was laid for the M/V Mikhail Ulyanov, the first of two 70,000 dwt Double Acting (DA) design Arctic shuttle tankers being built by Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg for Sovcomflot, Russia's While the Mikhail Ulyanov [named after the famous Russian actor Mikhail Ulyanov], and its sister vessel, M/V Kirill Lavrov [named after the famous Russian actor and theater director], will be the largest ships ever built by the 300-year-old shipyard, that is just part of their novelty. The two shuttle tankers have been designed by Finland's Aker Arctic Technology Inc. for operating in the extremely harsh ice and navigational conditions of the Barents Sea. The two LU6 tankers of 70,000 t Dwt are being built for for "Sovcomflot" for delivery in 2009 (Admiralty Shipyards Project 70046 (Hull 02750 & Hull 02751). The launching and naming ceremony for a new tanker Mikhail Ulyanov - the first ship in the series of Arctic shuttle tankers of 70,000 dwt ordered by Sovcomflot in St. Petersburg - took place at the Admiralty Shipyards on 31 October 2008.

Arctic tanker of 70 000 DWT, Project 70046 are designed to carry up to 3 grades of cargo of up t? 1.025 t/m3 density simultaneously, including crude oil, oil products, gas condensate (natural). Navigation area is not limited. Type of the vessel: a single-deck tanker with a diesel-electric propulsion plant, two Azipod propulsion units, forecastle, aft location of the engine room and accommodation spaces, double bottom, double sides and a longitudinal bulkhead in CL in the cargo tanks area. This is a double action vessel: bow forward movement in clear water, stern forward movement in ice. The tanker breaks through 1.2 m thick ice at a steady speed of not less than 3 knots when moving stern forward.

These arctic shuttle tankers apply the principle of double action, using an ice-breaking stern and a bow for open water. The tankers are equipeed with two Azipod propulsion units (a 360 rotary azimuth electric steering complex), by a dynamic positioning system for use in ice, bow loading system and a helicopter pad. The ships can navigate, breaking ice of up to 1.2 meters thick without an icebreaker escort. Their length is 257 metres, breadth mouldedd is 34 metres and the draft is 14 metres.

The naming ceremony for the first Russian Arctic shuttle tanker (70,000 tonnes deadweight), ordered by the Sovcomflot Group, took place on 18 December 2007. She is the first in a series of three enhanced ice-class tankers, designed to transport oil from the Varandey oil field within the Arctic Circle (operated by Naryanmarneftegaz - a joint venture between Lukoil and ConocoPhillips). The ship takes her name from a prominent senior executive of Russia's oil and gas industry - Vasily Aleksandrovich Dinkov. The tankers of this series are "Vasily Dinkov", "Shturman Albanov" and "Kapitan Gotsky". They will all be entered in the Russian International Shipping Register, with St. Petersburg being their port of registry and will fly the Russian Federation flag. The Arctic shuttle tankers of the "Vasily Dinkov" class incorporate the most advanced and unique technical features. These will make it possible to operate the ships in temperatures of minus 40C, breaking ice of up to 1.5 metre thick without an icebreaker escort. The ships have an ice-enhanced hull structure, designed in accordance with LU6 (1A Super) ice-class,



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