Imbalance in the Arctic?

gCaptain reports a Reuters interview with former Commandant Admiral Papp, now U.S. special representative for the Arctic Region, on the need for a heavy icebreaker and additional infrastructure in the Arctic. We are much less capable there than we were in the 1950s.

Meanwhile on the other side of the pole, the Russians are investing heavily, if perhaps not wisely.

On 23 Oct. the German Navy blog Marine Forum reported, “Baltic Shipyard plans to complete the world’s first floating nuclear power plant AKADEMIK LOMONOSOV in September 2016 … expected to provide power to Arctic cities.”

And the Russians tell us there is no need for NATO in the Arctic while reactivating Soviet era bases in the Arctic.

70 thoughts on “Imbalance in the Arctic?

  1. Of the NATO countries, doesn’t Canada have the most presence. Why can’t they be the lead country for NATO instead of the US? After all, doesn’t the northwest passage go through their country?

    • Of all the NATO countries, Norway is the most active in the Arctic. Not unexpected, since they share a border with Russia. So far, they have managed to negotiate there differences with Russia, but recent Russian actions have put them on edge. They hold regular naval exercises in the Arctic and have been calling for a standing NATO Arctic task force.

      Norway is, of course, on the Atlantic side of the Arctic Ocean. Canadian forces in the Arctic are also likely to be concentrated on the Atlantic side. They are planning some light icebreakers/patrol ships. Originally there were to have been 6 to 8, but the recent damage to there only Pacific fleet destroyer and oiler may require that that number be reduced.

      The US borders the much narrower Pacific entrance/exit to the Arctic Ocean. Naval Air Station Adak used to monitor that area, but of course it no longer exist. Other than the possible deployment of submarines, the Coast Guard is normally the primary naval component in these waters.

  2. The Russians are getting a bit right as well………

    1100 tons full load and 3240 nautical miles at 14kts. 24kts top, .60m (2 feet) of ice.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purga-class_icebreaker

    And a personal favourite from the land of Lego the Thetis-class…..

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thetis-class_ocean_patrol_vessel

    There are sensible answers out there to sensible questions; not everything has to be a LCS or a Zumwalt……….

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thetis-class_ocean_patrol_vessel

      • I am crayoning on your thread here but here is another picture of a Purga class…….

        They just look so right. Super stuff.

      • I also think we might do well to have a few smaller icebreakers, and that these are more attainable than the single very large icebreaker the Coast Guard is currently seeking.

        The Russians do have some massive icebreakers, but they also have many smaller ones. The Wind class that were the mainstay of our icebreaking fleet were only half the size of the Polar class and had less than a sixth the horsepower, and the Storis was certainly useful, and it was only 2,000 tons.

        We could probably do repeats of the USCGC Mackinaw (WLBB-30) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USCGC_Mackinaw_(WLBB-30) with only minor modifications, maybe adding a flight deck and hangar, and have the first ready within five years, at a fraction of the cost of the proposed new large icebreaker. No it would not be as powerful, but one icebreaker can only be in one place.

        The OPCs will give us a capability to operate in ice similar to the Thetis though their twin CP screws are likely to be more vulnerable than the Thetis’ single fixed pitch screw on the centerline. Still if they build them as planned they will be the largest class of ice-capable combatants in the world.

    • x, sorry your initial post on the topic got held up by the spam filter. I did edit it with your correction.

      I have always liked the Thetis class and suggested that while it was unlikely to be a contender, it would have met our needs for the OPC class.

  3. I think the smaller icebreakers are important, and we should invest in them. But they aren’t a substitute for the heavy icebreakers. We’ve seen the smaller ones get in trouble and then the Healy gets called in to help.

    We need more and newer heavy icebreakers. I don’t disagree with Chuck’s point that the smaller ones could take some of the load off the heavy icebreakers in certain cases. But there are situations and emergencies that the smaller icebreakers are useless for. You have to have the big ones too.

  4. Another thought on the ice breaker shortage. There is an obvious need, and you have various American and international government agencies, and multinational companies who need icebreaking services.

    It seems like their must be a profit potential for a private sector company to do this. If you the NSF and USCG agreed to something like a 10 year lease on a couple heavy icebreakers, they could either work in clauses in the lease or just sublet it to allow it to serve other agencies, companies, and countries. The extended lease from the USCG and NSF would allow a private company to get the credit to build/buy the ship/s.

    Wonder why this hasn’t been discussed as a possible solution? I assume there is a financial reason it won’t work, or it would have been done already.

    • PFI is a one way route to tax being wasted.

      For a balanced force you need a mix of ships and sizes. Often when somebody mentions the word icebreaker they mean some behemoth; the smaller ships seem to get forgotten. And we must remember as well as pack ice there is a lot of open water and extensive inlets to patrol too where they will be “berg bits” and growlers that could be hazardous to navigation.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_icebreaker_Shirase_(AGB-5003)

      • I don’t really agree that public/private partnerships are a waste of money, there are lots of cases where it makes sense, and lots of others where it doesn’t. In this case energy companies are one of the consumers of icebreaker services, as are other companies and international agencies. A public/private partnership would force the entity using the service to foot the bill. A private company would do it cheaper too. As it stands now we’re contracting with Russian icebreakers to resupply the Antarctic station when the NSF’s isn’t big enough to do the job.

        The other option would be for the USCG to contract with customers for icebreaking. Maybe that is already done, I don’t know. But we need a couple heavy icebreakers and probably a half dozen smaller ones, that’s going to cost something like 3 billion dollars. The entities using the icebreakers the most should should a larger share of the cost. It’s not a pure national defense issue and thus shouldn’t be paid for exclusively by the public.

    • Leasing has been investigated (page 25):

      http://fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RL34391.pdf

      I really liked Admiral Papp’s comment:

      “In terms of leasing, I don’t know. My personal experience is I lease one of my two cars and I pay a lot of money leasing my car. But at the end of the lease period, I have no car and I’ve spent a lot of money. So I don’t know if that’s
      directly applicable to ships as well, but right now I got half my garage is empty because I just turned one in.”

      When it comes to the actual design of the icebreaker, one of the potential issues can be that a vessel suitable for USCG service might not be good for the missions companies and other countries are looking for, and vice versa.

      • “Shipping” invented “chartering” but what works in the commercial world shouldn’t be seen as a plan for success in the world of security (and defence). When I look at the USCG I see an organisation that really gets value for its tax dollars out of its platforms. The fundamental USCG mission is presence. The USN may be looking at unmanned this and unmanned that, but the USCG hundred years from now, barring some invention of some phenomenal battery technology for aircraft use, mission will still mean a ship and her crew going into harm’s way. Look at the age of the USCG icebreakers. Imagine new ships built of better materials, utilising better more efficient stronger forms and structures, capitalising on the US’s gas bonanza to power them, and there is a recipe for value that a PFI will never deliver. Companies are attracted to PFI’s because there is profit; they are not a charitable contract. Owning the platforms may at first cost more but those costs over the decades fall away. Also you have to faith in your government to garner a good deal and I don’t think any Western government has shown much aptitude in that sphere. Not a fan of PFI.

      • I was kind of thinking of doing it the other way around. Instead of leasing a ship, contract with a company to do many of the tasks. For one thing, that would allow the ship to be made in China, Japan, or South Korea for a hell of a lot cheaper than we’ll build it here. We’re talking one or two ships, and they don’t need to be high tech, so I’m not terribly concerned about the impact on our shipbuilding industry. If they’re manned by the USCG, then they’ll have to be built here, no way around that. We use commercial tugs, why not use commercial icebreakers? (I saw there is currently one private American icebreaker), A heavy icebreaker would probably have to be subsidized, because it’s a massive investment for a private company. But in the short run, it would be a lot cheaper and not tie up so many resources. That way maybe we get all 25 offshore patrol cutters.

        The USCG would probably still need to buy a new heavy icebreaker, or fix that one sitting in Seattle. But at least they wouldn’t need to buy two or three, and man two or three.

        Anyway, just a thought. I’m not an expert on the matter and don’t claim to be.

      • China, Japan and South Korea are not leaders in icebreaker technology. How about Finland where about 60% of the world’s icebreakers have been built to date? The Finnish Transport Agency recently ordered what will be the best Baltic escort icebreaker in the world for 123 million euro ($156 million). It can break almost 6 ft of ice at 4 knots. Supersize it and head to the Arctic…

        As for high tech, I don’t think the US should aim for discount icebreakers which represent yesterday’s technology. Canada is working on a modern polar icebreaker design (diesel-electric with two shaftlines and one azimuth thruster). How about teaming up with them?

  5. Sometimes I hate hearing myself think, because I sound like a broken record, but: https://chuckhillscgblog.net/2010/06/30/canadian-icebreakeroffshore-patrol-vessel-procurement/

    If we look at the USCG mission in Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, and somewhat throughout the Arctic, what is needed is a vessel which is:
    • capable of handling (breaking) 1st-yr. ice of up to 1m thick,
    • towing disabled vessels,
    • exploiting Dist. 17 aviation assets (H-60 capable flight deck)
    • optimized handling of severe sea states frequently encountered in the AOR,
    • posesses small boats capable of interdiction and operating near hazardous shores,

    This all points to my idea presented during the discussion in the above article (from 2010…) of buying 4-5 Arctic Patrol Cutters of Ulstien’s X-bow design with light ice capability.

    • You can’t break 1 m thick ice with the Ulstein X-Bow. However, you may be able to operate in drift ice up to certain concentration (7/10?). Of course, you can always go backwards in ice, just like the Norwegians do with KV Svalbard…

      • Surprisingly, it apparently can be done. I thought the same as you and thought a double-acting ship with icebreaking stern and X-bow would be necessary. However, digging around on Ulstein’s site, I found they made a pair of survey vessels with Class I ice rating (European = able to break 1.3m of ice). I’ve not found video or photos of them in ice, but that’s what they were rated. I’m guessing the bow slices through, rather than riding up and over, which would also account for the rating only being good for 4′ of ice. I don’t think there’s any great disadvantage to a double-acting ship, either. Just ensure the bridge has 360-degree visibility, which is advantageous for flight ops, over-the-side rescues, towing, etc. as well…

      • “Class I ice rating” is not a recognized ice class, so I assume they are referring to Finnish-Swedish (Baltic) ice class 1A or 1A Super. However, this only means that the vessel’s hull and propulsion system are strengthened for navigation in the presence of ice with certain thickness (0.8 or 1.0 m). That is, the hull structure and propellers are strong enough to withstand contact with ice. However, it has nothing to do with the actual icegoing performance of the vessel. In fact, the Baltic ice classes are primarily intended for vessels operating either in ice channels, where the ice is broken into very small pieces that resemble porridge, or under icebreaker escort. This can be extended to drift ice with concentration below 50% where the ice does not hinder the movement of the vessel but the hull is still in contact with the floes.

        As for the icebreaking process, you cannot “slice” through unbroken level ice. X-Bow’s vertical lines will result in extensive crushing especially at the stem and the forward shoulder regions, considerably increasing the ice resistance of the vessel. Thus, it is unlikely that the vessel can operate independently in unbroken ice.

        Anyway, I think the X-Bow can be incorporated into a double-acting design and such vessel would be feasible at least in marginal ice zone operations.

      • Yes, you are right. It is Class IA. Fat fingers on skinny keyboard you know. 🙂

        I had a lot of trouble finding any reference to the scandanavian ice classes equalling a particular capability. It was 4 years ago, so I don’t remember what esoteric website I found which said Class IA equaled 1.3m, but you appear to know the ratings and qualities of ice and icebreaking classifications, so I will take your word for it more than a now-forgotten, tough to find website. I rather like the layout of a double-acting ship for the mission set of this type of vessel anyway.

      • While that’s not a very good article, chuckhill, it gives some basic information about ice classes. Basically, we have:

        – Baltic ice classes (so-called Finnish-Swedish ice classes; see separate article in Wikipedia by yours truly) that have been incorporated into the rules of most classification societies (ABS, DNV etc.). These are 1A Super, 1A, 1B, 1C and II (no ice class) and they are intended primarily for vessels operating under icebreaker escort in first-year ice. They are not intended for icebreakers, which require additional strengthening.
        – Classification society specific ice classes, such as DNV’s ICE- and POLAR-classes, Russian Maritime Register of Shipping’s numerous “Arc” and “Icebreaker” classes and so on. These are mostly intended for icebreakers and vessels with independent icegoing capability.
        – Polar classes, based on rules developed by the International Association of Classification Societies. These have as well been incorporated into the classification rules, sometimes with minor adjustments and additions. These are PC1…PC7, with PC1 being the highest. The vessel can also be assigned an additional notation “Icebreaker” (which has specific requirements) or “Icebreaker+” (which requires defining the operational scenarios and strengthening the vessel specifically for them; for example the new Canadian polar icebreaker has this ice class). These are supposed to replace classification society specific ice classes in the future, but there are a lot of disagreements and e.g. Russians will still require their own ice classes.

        Comparing the ice classes to each other and finding equivalents between different ice classes is not very easy.

        With the exception of minimum icebreaking performance for Russian “Icebreaker” ice classes and the brash ice channel perfromance requirements in the Baltic ice class rules, the ice classes do not care about how much ice the icebreaker can actually break. Because of this, it is possible to build a Polar Class 1 vessel that can break only few inches of ice.

      • Yes, thank you, Tups!

        So, let’s ask your opinion: If you were deciding specifications for an “Arctic Patrol Cutter” which needs to operate in (break) 1st year ice (mainly for rescue or supply operations), what ice classification would you want it built to?

        (I’m off to look for your article now. 🙂 )

      • Bill, I’m not a specialist in selecting the ice class, but I’d probably start from Polar Class 5 (“Year-round operation in medium first-year ice which may include
        old ice inclusions”) and then perhaps use additional strengthening based on the operational capability of the vessel. However, once the design progresses, it might be that PC6 is strong enough, so we can reduce the amount of general ice strengthening and thus the steel weight.

        However, my interest lies in the general concept and hull layout. It’s possible to design a good open water bow that can break up to 80 cm of ice; see for example the new Finnish offshore patrol vessel. Then, if you have azimuth thrusters, you can operate astern in thicker ice (up to 1 metre, for example) and when you encounter more difficult ice features such as pressure ridges.

        One of the problems is combining icebreaking capability (which requires strengthened propulsion system and high bollard pull) to high maximum speed in open water. 20 knots we can do, no problem, but if you want to nudge 30 knots, it’s becoming a problem because it’s difficult to design the propellers for two design points so far from each other.

        However, I don’t think this will be a problem. Vessels more suitable for open water operations could be relocated north during the summer months and this vessel, which is a bit slower but more resistant to ice, could be moved even further north where the ice conditions would now be easy enough to allow increased traffic that needs policing and patrolling. Then, once winter sets in and the traffic in the north grinds to a halt, the patrol vessels can move south and perhaps leave the icebound Arctic to the lone polar icebreaker which the US needs anyway.

  6. The reason why it’s difficult to find is because there aren’t any. The only performance requirement in the Baltic ice classes is the ability to operate in ice channel with a certain thickness at 5 knots, but it has nothing to do with breaking level ice or operating in more difficult ice conditions. Only the Russian ice classes have specific performance requirements for level ice.

  7. Tupps wrote:

    As for high tech, I don’t think the US should aim for discount icebreakers which represent yesterday’s technology. Canada is working on a modern polar icebreaker design (diesel-electric with two shaftlines and one azimuth thruster). How about teaming up with them?

    The Canadian heavy icebreaker project keeps getting pushed back and keeps getting more expensive. The latest estimate is 1.3 billion. There have been numerous articles in Canadian papers labeling the project a boondoggle, we don’t need anymore boondoggles. If the US and the CG keep waiting for 1.3 billion to appear out of thin air for a new heavy icebreaker, then we’re going to be having the same conversation about how we still need a new icebreaker 10 years from now. The options are to build 4 less OPC’s and keep pushing that project back in order to free up money for an icebreaker, keep pushing the icebreaker project back waiting for money that is never going to materialize, or try to find a cheaper way to do this.

    It doesn’t matter if the Koreans, Japanese, or Chinese are world leaders in icebreaker technology. You can design the ship anywhere, but those countries could build it for cheaper because they have more efficient shipbuilding industries. It’s not a military vessel, or at least it doesnt need to be.

    A few months ago the HASC committee said they aren’t interested in talking about icebreakers anymore because the Coast Guard isn’t interested in funding it and has higher priorities. 1.3 billion is not going to drop out of the sky and the Navy isn’t going to pay for it either. I really don’t expect any construction to start on a new CG heavy icebreaker in the next decade.

    • It makes me sad that your analysis is probably right…

      As usual, rather than planning ahead, locking in a price, and efficiently pooling resources, the US will do something about this in a panicked rush, when there is a crisis, and spend wastefully to “get it done.”

      I wonder what could be accomplished if Canada, US Navy, NSF, USCG, and the Scandanavians got together to design a polar breaker for series production? Perhaps combine this cooperation with an Arctic Joint Command, so there’s always 2-3 breakers available for operations between Bering Sea and Finland?

    • JamesWF, I am aware of the CCG project and how its price has doubled. However, I would rather not use the Canadians as an example when it comes to cost. They awarded the design contract for the Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels to a Canadian shipbuilding company for 288 million Canadian dollars. For the record, the Norwegians designed AND built a similar vessels with less than half of that. There is something /very/ wrong with their cost structure…

      Also, I can’t help but wonder why the Canadian icebreaker, which has about twice the size and power of the new Baltic icebreaker recently ordered from Arctech, can cost seven times as much. Where is all that money going? I mean, Finland is not a low-wage country and that icebreaker, which represents a completely new concept never seen before with three Azipod units (two in the stern, one in the bow), takes only three years from “We need a new icebreaker. Can you design one?” to actually delivering the finished product.

      • And that’s possible too. Maybe the Canadian cost structure is all out of whack and it can be done affordably. The only thing is US estimates have been at over a billion too, so I don’t know, maybe that is what is costs.

        Regardless, I wasn’t trying to belittle your point, and I apologize if it came across like that. Reading your posts it is pretty clear to me that you know more about the subject than I do. I think we all agree that an affordable way to do this needs to be figured out, whether that is done by a joint program with another country like your idea, a pooled serial production like Bill’s idea, modernizing the existing heavy icebreaker (Chuck’s idea), or outsourcing some icebreaker chores to the private sector (my idea), are all different ideas for trying to accomplish the same thing.

      • The Coast Guard has a stated requirement for three heavy icebreakers and three medium icebreakers. Right now we have only one of each and the Polar Star may not be replaced before its end of useful life. We do need to do something soon.

      • It’s true that Aiviq was not that expensive, but then again it’s not very complicated or high-spec. No diesel-electric propulsion system, no azimuth thrusters… Also, the vessel is probably best known for failing to tow the only Arctic drilling rig in the world from Alaska to Seattle.

        However, there has been reports of Edison Chouest building two new icebreakers. However, I have no idea about the technical details.

        As for icebreaker prices, I once talked in a bar with a guy from Arctech. He said they could probably build the alleged billion dollar icebreaker for 300-400 million euro…

  8. Yes! That would make sense. Even if it costs 400 million to refurbish the ship. That is a lot less than 1.3 billion. There are other ideas I think might work too, but this would make sense to me. And the way to get funding is to charge energy companies, government agencies, and other uses of icebreaking services for the service. It is still going to cost an arm, but maybe it won’t cost an arm and a leg.

      • Read the link though. They contract with subsidiaries and private energy companies, and then they lease it out of season.

        Very different operational setup than the USCG.

      • I don’t have to read it; I wrote it. The current charter to Shell is the first time when the MSVs are operating in their natural element also during the summer months. Previously, they were competing against dedicated open-water vessels, resulting in significantly lower charter rates because they were always the last ones to be picked.

        It should be noted that the new Finnish icebreaker will again be a “traditional” one, meaning that it does not have secondary “summer job” apart from being in standby for oil spill response.

        Whether or not a similar scheme could be adopted to the US depends on what kind of vessel the USCG and the potential customers (oil companies drilling in the Arctic) need. A polar icebreaker is not a good anchor-handler and vice versa. Ice management, perhaps…

    • I wonder if polar icebreakers could be operated more effeciently (cheaply) if the CG started a system for them such as the Navy does with the MSC. (Or maybe just turn the manning component completely over to the MSC. Since the polar breakers are research and resupply oriented, it makes sense.) Of course, I’ve proposed turning them over to NOAA for the same reasons in the past. No one wants to let go of missions for fear of having their budget reduced…

    • This is indeed an interesting article. However, it should be noted that the design of the Canadian polar icebreaker has progressed to two wing shaftlines and one centerline azimuth thruster instead of the triple shaftline version presented in the article.

      When we start discussing about the future US(CG) icebreaker, we should first define the mission before continuing to the vessel concept and e.g. selection of propulsion system. While modern icebreakers are almost uniformly propelled by azimuth thrusters (either electric podded propulsion or electrically-driven Z-drive thrusters), the South African polar research and resupply ship shows that this is not necessarily needed unless the operational profile calls for the advantages of steerable propellers. However, having seen the performance of azimuth thrusters with my own eyes (including hands-on experience for five or so minutes), my personal opinion is that a conventional shaftline-only icebreaker is a thing from the past, not something that should be considered for a modern icebreaker.

      • Tups, can you share some thoughts/knowledge on “milling” the ice with the propellors? Specifically, I’m curious how specialized the props must be to be used this way?

      • Sorry for separate post, but I was also wondering if you had any up-to-date information about the use of Azipod-X (props at both ends of the pod contra-rotating) units in icebreaking (which is what made me start wondering about the milling question)?

      • I assume you’re referring to a situation where the vessel is proceeding astern through a difficult ice obstacle such as a pressure ridge and the propeller is allowed to come into direct contact with the ice floes. While you obviously need a robust propeller for this, as long as the propeller remains turning the blades will always hit the ice with the “strong” leading edge. For this reason, you’ll also need over-torque capacity from the propulsion motors to prevent the propeller from slowing down too much during operations in difficult ice conditions.

        As for design, the classification societies have rules for design loads. After that, it’s just a matter of designing a propeller which can withstand them.

        ABB does not offer Azipod units with tandem- or contra-rotating propellers. The only “CRP Azipod” system is the one where you have a shaft-driven propeller in the front and an Azipod unit directly behind it instead of a rudder.

        However, I assume you are referring to the azimuthing contra-rotating thrusters that are produced by e.g. Steerprop. There are some low ice class units in service, but no-one has yet chosen the high-powered units for their icebreakers yet. I guess everyone is waiting for someone else to try it first. The CRP unit offers some advantages for thrust and efficiency, but it’s of course more complex than a standard Z-drive or electric podded unit. However, I don’t see anything against using them in an icebreaker. Keep in mind that 20 years ago no-one believed that an azimuth thruster could be used in an icebreaker…

    • Having read the AkerArctic pdf, the thing that struck me was the quote, that while the Chinese Icebreaker was averaging less than ten days in Marine Investigation, the National Science Foundation’s icebreaker, Nathaniel B. Palmer, was spending on average 238 days a year in marine investigation. Apparently they are getting their money’s worth out of her.

  9. BBC reports the Danes, acting on behalf of Greenland, have filed a claim with the UN to an area of the Arctic Continental Shelf that includes sea floor at the North Pole.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-30481309
    “The focus of the dispute is the Lomonosov Ridge, a 1,800km-long (1,120 miles) underwater mountain range that splits the Arctic in two.” Parts of which are already claimed by Canada and Russia. Total area claimed is 895,000 sq km (346,000 sq miles).

  10. The USCG Icebreaker needs are much different than any other nations in several respects. Our commitment to both poles requires a ship friendly in open waters as well as having heavy ice capabilities. The Chukchi and Beaufort Seas are relatively shallow which is another limitation to vessel draft. The heavy ice ridging that occurs in the Chukchi and the passages of Northern Canada require massive weight and power. Diesel and gas turbines are cheap to purchase and install but the total cost over thirty years for a heavy ship exceeds that of nuclear power.

    Time for the Coast Guard to start thinking outside the box.

    • The future USCG icebreaker has much in common with Antarctic research and resupply vessels which have to operate for long periods of time in open water. However, while icebreakers tend to be uncomfortable in heavy seas, they are not unsafe, so there is no need to compromise icebreaking capability due to seakeeping requirements. As long as the crew can tolerate the vessel motions (pitching and rolling) as well as slamming, the icebreaker should be designed primarily for operations in ice-covered waters. You just have to accept that it will never be as good as an open water cutter. Some effects of the bad seakeeping characteristics can be mitigated by passive/control passive anti-rolling tanks.

      As for ice ridges, there is no need to install additional power for overcoming difficult ice obstacles. Just turn around and go backwards in a continuous motion instead of backing and ramming bow-first. Of course, multi-year ice as well as thick first-year ice should be tackled head-on in order to protect the propulsion units.

      While nuclear-powered icebreakers are cool, I don’t consider them to be economically viable except on few special routes. I made some quick calculations for a polar icebreaker with 5000-ton fuel tanks for 90-day endurance. If MDO costs $1000 per ton (it costs $400 now, but used to cost $1000 some time ago), the fuel costs during a 30-year service life would be $600 million. Would that $600 million cover the additional costs of a nuclear reactor, its commissioning and decommissioning, the nuclear fuel, and the additional specialist personnel needed to operate it? That’s about the difference between a large diesel-electric icebreaker and a nuclear-powered icebreaker in Russia. How much you think it would be in the US where building the former already costs about four times as much as in other countries?

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