Russia originally planned to build three super-powerful Lider-class icebreakers. Photo: Atle Staalesen

Rosatom hints it might not need that many new icebreakers after all

Leader of the company's Northern Sea Route Directorate says three powerful nuclear icebreakers will be able to keep the whole Arctic shipping corridor open through the winter and spring season. Previously, the company insisted it needed six vessels for the job.
March 10, 2021


As part of its drive towards the Arctic, Russia has initiated a massive nuclear icebreaker program that includes the building of at least eight new vessels by year 2033.

Among them is three vessels of the Lider class.

However, the nuclear power company now signals that it might not need that many new icebreakers after all. In an interview with newspaper Korabel, leader of the company’s Northern Sea Route Directorate Vyacheslav Ruksha explains that three new icebreakers will be able to keep the entire route open for daily shipments through the whole year.


Vyasheslav Ruksha is Director of the Northern Sea Route Directorate. Photo: Thomas Nilsen


Previously, we believed that almost six vessels would be required, he told Korabel.

The reason for the reduced number of needed icebreakers is the powerful icebreaking capacities of the LNG carriers shuttling the route. According to Ruksha, recent experimental shipments across the NSR indicate that the so-called Yamalmax tankers are capable of breaking through major parts of the sea-ice themselves.


Over the last year, several extreme voyages have been conducted across the Northern Sea Route in the most difficult parts of the year. The Christophe de Margerie in February this year made it smoothly from China to Sabetta, and in late May last year the same carrier sailed in the opposite direction.

More experimental voyages are due to be conducted this spring, Ruksha confirms. It is May that normally is the most difficult month for shipping in the area, he explains.

Vyacheslav Ruksha also praises cooperation with natural gas company Novatek and its leader Leonid Mikhelson.

As a matter of fact, Mikhelson and his company is a major driver in Russian Arctic development, the experienced Rosatom representative underlines. According to Ruksha, Rosatom’s building of nuclear icebreakers is closely connected and synchronized with Leonid Mikhelson and his LNG projects.

Leonid Mikhelson heads company Novatek. Photo: Atle Staalesen

“I always say warm words about Leonid Mikhailovich Mikhelson.”

“Only few people know that the construction of our new nuclear icebreakers has been harmonized, synchronized with government decrees on the development of liquified natural gas in the Yamal Peninsula,” the powerful representative of Rosatom explains.

Ruksha leads the directorate that is responsible for the development of the Northern Sea Route, the Arctic shipping corridor that connects Europe with Asia. A key part of the route development program is based on the construction of new icebreakers.

In 2020, almost 33 million tons was shipped on the NSR. By year 2024, at least 80 million tons are to be transported on the route, government plans say.




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