Want to Buy an Icebreaker?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Coast Guard is planning to buy the  icebreaking, anchor-handling tug-supply vessel Aiviq, “U.S. Looks to Buy Private Icebreaker to Help Patrol Contested Arctic.” The Coast Guard has been noncommital, but it seems likely. We have been talking about this ship since 2012. It is ten years old. When attempts to drill in the Arctic ended and the ship went on the open market without a buyer, I suggested the Coast Guard consider purchase. Probably not because of my urging, but the Coast Guard did look at it, and decided it did not meet our needs. Really it probably still does not. (The geared diesel propulsion looked like it might be problematic in the ice.) Buying it would probably help a major Congressional contributor cut his losses. It is going to require a major rework, and its only selling point is that it seems to be the only alternative, but is it?

gCaptain reports,

The Finnish Government is blocking Helsinki Shipyard from delivering an icebreaker to Russian mining company Norilsk Nickel.

The shipyard, which is known for its icebreaker construction, said Wednesday it had received a “negative decision” from Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on September 30th related to the export license of the vessel, confirming reports in Finnish press. The shipyard’s statement did not go into specifics…the icebreaker was to be largest and most powerful diesel-electric icebreaker ever built in Finland, with an integrated dual-fuel engine that can run on both LNG and low-sulfur diesel oil.

No it is not finished, but the design is complete. “Helsinki Shipyard in January said it had completed purchasing contracts for the vessel’s main machinery and propulsion equipment and construction was expected to start this year.” Delivery had been expected in 2024.

This looks like an opportunity to get a powerful, state of the art icebreaker and help a company that has been hurt because Finland stood up against Russian aggression. Since construction has not begun, there may also be an opportunity to tweek the design to meet CG requirements. It has been less than two months since the Finnish government stopped construction. I suspect Finland could complete the ship promptly, probably by 2025. It should at least be looked at. We would need special dispensation from Congress to buy a foreign built ship, but it has been done before. There would probably still be some fitting out work to be done in an American shipyard.

Icebreaking Anchor Handling Vessel Aiviq

As for the Aiviq, we could still lease it, see how it works out, and buy it later if we like what we have seen.

 

4 thoughts on “Want to Buy an Icebreaker?

      • While I like your idea, the key problem here is that as of today the Finnish shipyard is still owned by Russian businessmen connected to Vladimir Putin. That would have to change before the opportunity would even register in US radars…

        Another issue with repurposing the now-cancelled icebreaker for the USCG would be that, frankly speaking, it is about as unsuitable for their purposes as Aiviq. Although in terms of operational capability it would have been on a completely different level, it was tailored for the needs of the Russian operator such as escorting cargo ships in the Yenisei river with very little consideration for e.g. rough ice-free seas. Furthermore, it was designed to run on liquefied natural gas and literally designed around large cryogenic storage tanks. Of course replacing those with large diesel oil tanks would have been a trivial task, but some design compromises would have inevitably remained.

        Instead of the design, I would rather look into streamlined procurement timeline. How fast one could develop, design and deliver a heavy polar icebreaker if given a one-page list of key performance etc. requirements today. I’d say three years would be realistic.

  1. With Bollinger taking over VT Halter Marine, I would think that the PSC program will get back on track. I think that’s our best bet for newbuilds.

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