Russia had announced the construction of a new generation of nuclear icebreakers in 2009. The first icebreaker had been laid down in 2013 and is scheduled for commission in 2017. Now, the second ship, named Sibir, has been keel-laid in Murmansk on May 26. A number of high-ranking officials were present at this occasion.

The opening of the Arctic sea route has strong implications for the world trade. Shorter routes, cost, and timesaving between the Asian and European markets are attractive reasons to send ships through the Northern Sea Route (NSR) (also known as Northeast Passage) long the Russian coast. However, sea ice will always be an issue on this route. To this end, Russia had announced to modernize and strengthen its icebreaker fleet and introduced plans for at least 14 icebreakers, both conventional and nuclear. Especially the construction of a new generation of nuclear-powered icebreakers has received a lot of attention in the media as Russia is the only country worldwide to possess such vessels. The first ship of this new LK-60 class was laid down on November 5 2013 and named Arktika. It is scheduled to enter service in 2017. Subsequently, two more ships will enter the services of Rosatomflot, the fleet of the state-owned Russian atomic agency.

The new LK-60 class will be the world’s largest icebreakers with a length of 173 meters, 34 m wide and a displacement of 33’540 tons. They will be able to break ice up to 3 meters thick and the reactor can generate around 90,000 HP, which equals around 60MW of power. Picture: Rosatom / Barents Observer
The new LK-60 class will be the world’s largest icebreakers with a length of 173 meters, 34 m wide and a displacement of 33’540 tons. They will be able to break ice up to 3 meters thick and the reactor can generate around 90,000 HP, which equals around 60MW of power. Picture: Rosatom / Barents Observer

On Tuesday, May 26 2015, On Tuesday, a ceremony at the Baltic Shipyard marked the keel laying of “Sibir”, the second vessel in the LK-60 (project 22220) class, the biggest and most powerful icebreaker in the world. The ceremony was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, CEO of Rosatom Sergey Kirienko, General Director of Rosatomflot Vyacheslav Ruksha, and several other officials, among them Governor of Murmansk Oblast Marina Kovtun. “The Arctic is full of opportunities… But you cannot just walk into it empty-handed, you need to be armed with modern technology – vessels, ships, communications and much more….”, said Dmitry Rogozin, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and Head of the Arctic Commission in his speech at the ceremony. Sergey Kirienko also lauded the new generation of icebreakers and welcomed them into Russia’s fleet. He stated that the ships would strengthen Russia’s bid to the Arctic shelf exploration and its military capabilities.

The importance of the new ships is apparent by the attendance of Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin (left), CEO of Rosatom Sergey Kirienko (middle) and the Governor of Murmansk, Marina Kovtun (right) at the keel-laying of the second ship. Picture: Gov-murman.ru / Barents Observer
The importance of the new ships is apparent by the attendance of Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin (left), CEO of Rosatom Sergey Kirienko (middle) and the Governor of Murmansk, Marina Kovtun (right) at the keel-laying of the second ship. Picture: Gov-murman.ru / Barents Observer

The new icebreakers will exceed all existing ships by far. The vessels are 173 meters long, 34 meters wide and able to sail in 3-meter thick ice. Two RITM-200 reactors, a new type of pressurized water reactor that has been designed especially for the new icebreaker class, will generate the power. The power generated by these reactors will allow a speed of 1.5 – 2 knots when crushing through 2.8-meter thick ice. Despite the ship’s size, it will have a crew of 75 only, compared to the 122 men on the “50 Let Pobedy” currently the largest icebreaker in the world.

The new class of icebreakers are planned to take over a broad range of duties, from opening of the NSR to breaking ice in river estuaries of Ob, Don and Lena. Picture: Rosatom / Barents Observer
The new class of icebreakers are planned to take over a broad range of duties, from opening of the NSR to breaking ice in river estuaries of Ob, Don and Lena. Picture: Rosatom / Barents Observer

Baltic Shipyard in Murmansk had received the contract for the construction of the icebreakers with a total volume €2.15 billion. While Rosatom paid approximately €650 million for the maiden ship Arktika, the two subsequent icebreakers will be a bit more expensive. The contract for the two latest icebreakers has an 84.4 billion rubles (€1.5 billion) price tag. The latest icebreakers are due to be put in commission in December 2019 and December 2020, respectively.

Source: Barents Observer, Global Security, Rosatom