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A dancing icebreaker

Alexandra Soulenko
PR specialist, Marketing Department, Vyborg Shipyard

Construction of the icebreaking support vessel Andrey Vilkitsky began in 2015 using large-block construction technology, which Vyborg Shipyard successfully employs in the construction of various classes of vessels. On July 4, 2017, the vessel was launched for further fitting-out and installation of equipment

he icebreaker is named after the famous Russian hydrographer-surveyor, polar explorer Andrey Ippolitovich Vilkitsky (1858-1913). The vessel was built to operate in Arctic freshwaters covered by ice up to 2.5 meters thick for more than 200 days a year. The task is further complicated by shallow waters in the Gulf of Ob area and strong storm winds. To ensure uninterrupted off-loading of oil beyond the Arctic Circle, icebreaking vessels such as the Andrey Vilkitsky and the Alexander Sannikov, which became the first icebreaker built under the Time of the Arctic program, are needed. These vessels clear water channels through which tankers pass freely and safely to the Arctic Gate terminal.

Because of the impressive size of the vessel (121.7 m long, 26 m wide, with a draft of 8.2 m), it was impossible to build it the classical way, i.e., in a covered slipway, with further fitting-out on an open slipway and launching through a lift basin. That is why the semi-submersible barge Atlant was used, which was also used earlier in the construction of a series of Project 21900 M icebreakers. The blocks for the vessel were built in a covered slipway and then were transferred to a painting shop using self-propelled trailer platforms. After painting, the blocks were transported to a fitting-out quay of the shipyard, where they were loaded on the Atlant using a floating crane. Thus, the icebreaker was finally assembled on the semi-submersible barge. As a result, the icebreaking support vessel was built by the Vyborg Shipyard on a turnkey basis within the shortest possible time. 

Innovation for maneuverability

The main advantage of the vessel is that it is an icebreaking support vessel rather than an icebreaker. Such vessels are designed to carry out operational tasks: icebreaker escort for tankers, mooring and loading operations, towing of vessels, fire fighting, participation in oil spill response operations, assistance in rescue operations.

In addition, Andrey Vilkitsky is designed to meet zero discharge requirements, which is safe for the ecology of the region – all solid and liquid waste is stored onboard and disposed of on shore. Remote automated control of the Arctic Gate terminal during mooring operations and off-loading of oil to tankers is provided from the icebreaking support vessel. A special shape of Andrey Vilkitsky’s hull enables the vessel to cut and break up the ice rather than crush it like nuclear-powered ships do. The vessel is effective owing to a low draft of eight meters and maneuverability. Andrey Vilkitsky accelerates to 16 knots (30 km/h) in clear water, can make a 360-degree turn in a minute and, with propulsion power of 22 MW, it offers the icebreaking capability comparable to that of more powerful nuclear icebreakers. For its unique maneuverability, the vessel was called “dancing”. Such benefits of the vessel are provided by the hull design and three 360-degree rotating Azipod propulsors of which two are located in the stern of the vessel and one in the bow. They enable the icebreaker to carry out operations in difficult conditions in the area of operation of the vessel as effectively as possible.

Alexander Dyukov,

Chairman of Gazprom Neft Board of Directors

This is the second high-tech icebreaker that will be involved in ensuring uninterrupted oil off-loading from the Novoportovskoye field and will help increase the efficiency of our work in the Gulf of Ob. Novy Port is one of the company’s fastest-developing assets. In 2018, production output at the field increased by more than 40% compared to last year. Logistics, the ability to continue oil off-loading and transportation via the Kara Sea regardless of weather conditions, is key in this regard. Therefore, the construction of icebreakers was a necessary condition for the further effective development of Novy Port.

Owing to equipping the icebreaker with digital facilities, a crew of twenty-one people is enough to operate the vessel, while the nuclear-powered ships have a crew two to three times larger.

Andrey Vilkitsky is the most advanced diesel-electric icebreaker in the world. Even at full speed of 16 knots, the icebreaker is controlled by just three joysticks.

Comfort and safety

Everything is provided on the ship to create comfortable working conditions for the personnel. For example, metal railings on the ship’s deck are automatically heated to prevent icing of them. Andrey Vilkitsky is designed to work up to 40 days at an extreme temperature of minus 50 degrees. There is a hospital onboard the ship to maintain health and give first aid to crew members. All furniture and equipment installed on the icebreaker meet state-of-the-art standards. In their off-duty time, the crew has the opportunity to visit the library, a cozy mess room with a fireplace or a gym where multi-functional equipment is installed to maintain their physical fitness. There is also a sauna with a swimming pool.

In terms of the level of equipment, Andrey Vilkitsky is superior to most existing icebreakers. It has its own fire station, a helipad, emergency boats, a powerful winch and a crane with a capacity of 26 tons. The vessel is equipped to collect oil spills, and 1250 m3 of collected oil can be accommodated in its tanks. A modern fire extinguishing system is also installed on the vessel whose water jet has a throw length of over 100 meters.


Icebreaking support vessel Andrey Vilkitsky

[ Project IBSV01 ]

Length: 121.7 m

Beam: 26 m

Draft: 8.2 m

Power: 22 MV

Main deck width: 26 m

Deadweight: 3,400 tons

Speed: 16 knots

Endurance: 40 days

Crew: 21

The vessel was built under the technical supervision of the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping, class Icebreaker8

A dancing icebreaker
A dancing icebreaker
A dancing icebreaker