It is mid-winter, but world's most powerful icebreaker lies idle in port
It has been a slow start for Russia’s first LK-60 icebreaker. The super-powerful ship has hardly at all been sailing in thick Arctic sea-ice since it was delivered from the Baltic Yard in St. Petersburg on the 22 September.
On its maiden voyage towards the home port of Murmansk, the Arktika did break its way to the North Pole and later sailed to the strategically important LNG terminal of Sabetta in Yamal.
But since then, the ship has been lying idle in Atomflot, the nuclear icebreaker base in Murmansk.
Meanwhile, ship owner Rosatom has been hectically busy breaking ice for the quickly expanding ship traffic in far northern waters.
According to Vyacheslav Ruksha, leader of Rosatom’s Northern Sea Route Directorate, the Arktika is troubled by a technical problem with its low-pressure cylinders.
The ship will be back in operation from 18-20th February, Ruksha told PortNews.
The turbines of the Arktika are manufactured by the Ural Turbine Works in Yekaterinburg. The company is also producing the turbines for the remaining four vessels of the LK-60 fleet. The next ship in the line, the Sibir, is due to be commissioned in late 2021, while the last in the fleet, the Chukotka, is to be ready by late 2026.
The Arktika has been marred by various technical problems since construction started in 2012.
During sea trials in the Baltic Sea in February 2020 a short circuit caused serious damage to the winding in one of the three electro engines.
Consequently, one of the ship’s three propellers is not working.
Several experts have disputed the ship’s sailing to Murmansk with only two of its three engines working.
In a comment to the Barents Observer, Director of Bellona Murmansk Andrey Zolotkov in April 2020 underlined that the Arktika should have remained in St.Petersburg until the engine is fixed.
Zolotkov questions the maneuverability of a ship when one of three propellers is not working.
“Other nuclear-powered icebreakers always have spare blades on board ready to replace damaged ones while sailing in the Arctic.”
“In order to reduce all risks, it is advisable to leave the Arktika icebreaker in St. Petersburg and wait for the repair of the engine,” Andrey Zolotkov concludes.
The installment of a new engine is a major operation and the Arktika will have to return to St.Peterburg to do the job. That is due to happen in the summer of 2021.