New Russian ice-breakers will ‘change the face of shipping’ on the NSR


An artist’s impression of the monster nuclear powered Lider-class ice-breaker. Credit:


The ships will be able to break ice up to twice as thick as traditional icebreakers, opening up routes previously considered unsafe


The new generation of Russian nuclear ice-breakers under the Lider project will “change the face of shipping at the Northern Sea Route (NSR)”, opening up new, safe routes the year-round for global trade, according to the Russian deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is supervising the project on behalf of the country’s government.


According to Russian state-owned shipbuilder United Shipbuilding Corporation, these vessels will be up to 200 m in length and 50 m wide. They will be capable of travelling at up to 13 kt and escorting ships with deadweight of more than 100,000 tonnes through up to 4.5 m of ice, and which is the maximum thickness in Arctic these days, Rogozin said. The “conventional ice-breakers” that Russia currently operates are able to break ice up to 2 m thick. Their operation would “open up the NSR completely for foreign customers”, including on new routes that were previously considered unreliable due to safety concerns, added Rogozin.


He also revealed that Russia planned to make the three new-generation ice-breakers operational between 2023 and 2025. From that time the country would be able “to arrange any shipment, of any cargo, on any direction” at the NSR, he said.


In addition to escorting vessels the Lider ice-breakers would be able to solve the most complicated tasks in the Arctic, including participating in rescue missions in remote areas of the region, Rogozin claimed.


Alexey Kadilov, the general director of Baltic Shipyard, which is currently seeking the state contact to build the Lider ice-breakers, said that the project would be “a true breakthrough” for the Russian shipping industry, as it would make year-round navigation at the NSR possible.


It would also boost the trade flow of various goods from Asia to Europe through the NSR and the flow of hydrocarbons from the Russian shelf projects to Asian customers, including in South Korea, Japan and China, he added.


Russia has also commissioned a nuclear powered ice-breaker for deployment on the NSR from 2019. Russia is the only countr yin the world to build and operate nuclear powered ice-breakers and the new 173 m-long, 33,000 tonne Arktika-class vessel will be its fifth in operation.

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