New Dual Fuel Finnish Icebreaker


MarineLog reports the delivery of the world’s first Icebreaker capable of running on LNG. It does appear that its capabilities using LNG alone may be limited. “The diesel-electric propulsion system includes two Wartsila 6,000 kW engines and one 1,280 kW dual fuel engine.” If, as it appears, only the 1,280 kW engine can use LNG.

I found the size of the Finnish icebreaker fleet interesting.

“Following delivery, the Finnish Transport Agency handed the vessel over to Arctia Icebreaking Oy, A Finnish state-owned company that operates a fleet of vessels that provide icebreaking services. Besides the Polaris, Arctia Icebreaking Oy operates three multipurpose icebreakers, one oil spill recovery icebreaker, three 113-ton bollard pull icebreakers, and one harbor icebreaker and towing vessel. The newest oceangoing icebreakers in the fleet, the Fennica and Nordica—two 230-ton bollard pull icebreakers—were both delivered in 1993.”

Note, the range and endurance required of these icebreakers is closer to what we think of as domestic icebreakers rather than polar icebreakers, but still an impressive fleet.

Late addition: gCaptain has a more complete description of the ship:

12 thoughts on “New Dual Fuel Finnish Icebreaker

  1. There is an error in MarineLog’s article. Polaris has a power plant consisting of two 9-cylinder Wärtsilä 9L34DF and two 12-cylinder Wärtsilä 12V34DF dual-fuel engines, and a separate Wärtsilä 8L20DF harbor generator. The total rating of the power plant is over 22,000 kW, of which 19,000 kW is available to the Azipod propulsion units (2 x 6,500 kW + 6,000 kW). Icebreaking endurance when using LNG is 10 days, but this refers to standard escort operations with varying load rather than continuous full propulsion power.

    As for Arctia’s other fleet, I think the description is a bit misleading. The Finnish state-owned icebreaker fleet consists of the following vessels:
    – Voima, Baltic escort icebreaker built in 1954, displacement 5,200 tons, propulsion power 13,700 hp for four shafts (two in the bow, two in the stern), and bollard pull 113 tons. The oldest icebreaker in the world in active service, refitted in 1978-79 and received a 10-year service life extension this year.
    – Urho, Baltic escort icebreaker built in 1975, displacement 9,660 tons, propulsion power 22,000 hp for four shafts (two in the bow, two in the stern), and bollard pull about 180 tons (this was incorrect in the article and on Arctia’s website). Prior to Polaris, this class of icebreakers (2 in Finland, 3 in Sweden) was considered the best Baltic escort icebreaker ever built.
    – Sisu, sister ship of Urho, built in 1976.
    – Otso, Baltic escort icebreaker built in 1986, displacement 9,130 tons, propulsion power 20,000 hp for two shafts, and bollard pull 160 tons. Upgraded to Polar Class 4 ice class and fitted with anti-rolling tank for operations in international waters.
    – Kontio, sister ship of Otso, built in 1976. Previously fitted with oil recovery equipment, but I’m not sure if any remains after the EMSA charter ended.
    – Fennica, multipurpose icebreaker built in 1993, maximum displacement 12,800 tons but less in Baltic icebreaking operations, propulsion power 20,000 hp to two Aquamaster Z-drive azimuth thrusters, and bollard pull 230 tons.
    – Nordica, sister ship of Fennica built in 1994.
    – Ahto, small port icebreaker/escort tug built in 2014.

    Of the above, Voima, Urho, Sisu and Kontio can only operate in the Baltic Sea while Otso was refitted for international voyages and been supporting seismic exploration projects off Greenland, and Fennica and Nordica were chartered by Shell for the oil exploration off Alaska few years ago. As for Polaris, there are political obstacles why it can’t be used for other purposes than Baltic escort icebreaking operations.

    I prefer to use the term “Baltic escort icebreaker” when talking about conventional icebreakers. The winter navigation system in the Baltic Sea relies on icebreakers escorting – and often towing – merchant ships to and from ports. It’s totally different from, for example, the Great Lakes but similar to how Russians operate in the Northern Sea Route. The maximum level ice thickness in these waters never exceeds about 3 ft, but wind-driven pressure ridges can be more than 40 ft thick. That’s why the older icebreakers (and now Polaris) were fitted with propellers also in the bow to overcome this. In addition, while Polaris’s theoretical continuous icebreaking capability is 4 knots in 6 ft ice, the design goal was actually higher speed in smaller ice thicknesses and the “ability” to never get stuck in ice even during the hardest Baltic winters. If the icebreaker was actually taken to polar waters, the operational capability would likely be limited by the hull strength (“only” Polar Class 4 Icebreaker(+)) rather than propulsion power. Anyway, for its primary mission, it’s definitely the best design ever built. Even the Russians acknowledged it by ordering two similar but somewhat upgraded vessels for Arctic waters. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this kind of design also for the Great Lakes, but it is probably not needed as the shipping activity is somewhat different. A smaller version, little bit bigger than USCGC Mackinaw, could be feasible, though…

    I guess the biggest problem now is that the Baltic winter is about 6 weeks behind schedule and the first icebreaker is predicted to leave to the Gulf of Bothnia in January. In the meantime, someone needs to explain to the citizens why the state spent 125 million euro to build a new icebreaker when the old ones are not fully utilized either…

  2. Some blatant self-promotion in form of a fresh* video about the full-scale icebreaking trials of the LNG-powered icebreaker Polaris with some key performance figures verified during the tests:

    While I doubt the USCG has much use for exactly this kind of icebreaking vessel (the technology, definitely, but not necessarily in this form as there isn’t much year-round shipping to support in the US waters), the Canadians have been struggling with sea ice this winter and could really use a modern escort icebreaker – the “new” ones they just bought are almost 20 years old…

    Still, I wouldn’t mind putting a third Azipod unit in the bow of the new Great Lakes icebreaker, just because it brings the operability in ice to a completely different level…

    (* footage shot in 2017; video published today)

      • The problem is that USCG’s icebreaking missions are quite different from what Polaris is designed to do without compromise (Baltic-style escort icebreaking), so they might opt for a more traditional design and definitely drop the LNG fuel.

      • Indeed. What will the missions for the medium sized USCGs icebreakers be? Will they all be homeported in Seattle, so three heavy and three medium plus the Healey, or is it only two new mediums and the Healey?
        They could go possibly for a design based on the later ARC130 A, as it has a higher polar class, which would allow missions in the Artic and it is running on fuel oil. I think the Polaris dual fuel is a good idea, as it will likely do most of its duty on the much cleaner LNG with 10 days endurance, but it can add another 20 days to the endurance by also use the heavy fuel, so a total of 30 days when needed, say for missions to the Arctic or Antarctic.
        If it at the same time is slimmed down, so it can fit through the locks, the same medium icebreaker design can do duty in the Great Lakes, instead of getting a dedicated one.

      • I don’t think the primary missions of the medium icebreakers differ that much from the heavies, with the exception of dropping the McMurdo break-in which requires somewhat heavier icebreaking capability. I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually started referring to them as “medium polar security cutters”. Ig they get built, I bet we’d see them patrolling primarily the Alaskan coast.

        While both examples of the “Polaris family” represent very capable icebreakers, their “2+1” propulsion configuration is optimized for escort operations that are not part of USCG’s mission set outside the Great Lakes. While the technology is applicable (and will be used in the PSC), I think they’d opt for a more traditional configuration with a “normal” icebreaking bow.

        As for LNG, I just don’t see it realistic for the USCG. It’s unfamiliar technology, not readily available (unlike diesel), and generally problematic to store and handle due to being a cryogenic liquid.

      • The ARC130A design should be able to do escort on the GL in winter and then do Arctic/Polar in the summer with a slight expansion for more science gear. With the price of a ARC130A around 125m€ and a heavy at 780m$ and them talking of mediums being closely priced to that, their current plans does not make much sense. As a Scandinavian who is used to being pragmatic and make every euro count, the US icebreaker program is such a waste. I wonder what offer Aker Arctic made to the heavy program.
        For less money they can buy the three heavies, two medium Healy types with expansive science capabilities (or two more heavy) and then three to four Baltic escort types for the last 800m$. Even if we outfit the three latter with more cabins and endurance, higher polar class etc, so they can undertake polar missions in the summer, and reach a price of 200m$ pr ship its still below the price of the heavies and mediums. With four Baltic escort, two to three can be on the eastern seabord/great lakes and one to two on the western seabord.
        The USCG should have spend some of all the mio dollars on getting Aker to do some analysis of their needs and how to cover them most efficiently.

      • Likely they can also be built much faster like 2021-22. While they may not be able to do the resupply in Antarctica, they could support the ageing Polar Star and come to her rescue if problem occur. Actually they may be able to do the break in, if needed, as I believe it was done with much lesser power before the heavy Polar class. While the ARC130A design is not optimized for that mission, it might be possible to modify it to do it. It does not have to be pretty or efficient, as it will be a temporary mission until the new heavies are ready.

      • There are a few reasons for the cost discrepancy compared to Scandinavian and Russian icebreakers, namely higher unit cost (“$/ton”) for US-built ships and the additional requirements of a USCG cutter compared to a commercial-spec icebreaker, and we probably can’t get rid of either. Certainly streamlining the procurement process could also reduce cost and construction time, but that’s probably not realistic for a government project either – for the PSC/HPIB project, the USCG did that more-than-a-year-long “industry study” with five yards before they even published the final RFQ. The “record delivery times” have always been achieved when the client knows exactly what they want and are willing to lock early into a single designer, yard and a set of main equipment manufacturers.

        I still don’t really see any point in parent design approach if the primary missions are as different as they would probably be with the USCG MPSC and the icebreakers designed to circle an offshore oil terminal in a shallow river estuary. No matter how good the 130 A design is in its intended role, it would be extremely difficult to justify using the same propulsion configuration for the USCG.

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