Russia’s Oblique Icebreaker “Baltika” Tested in Arctic Ice

baltika aker arctic
Image: Aker Arctic

Baltika, the first ship ever built with an asymmetric hull form, demonstrated what she was designed to do while conducting full scale ice trials recently.

The ship was designed by Aker Arctic as an icebreaking escort vessel with a hull that allows it to break ice while operating ahead, astern or in the above case, sideways. The latter operation is utilized to open a channel for vessels that are much wider than the actual beam of the relatively small icebreaker.

The vessel was launched lat year and departed from Murmansk on 20 March 2015 to conduct full scale ice trials with the Aker Arctic team on board. The crew sailed around the northern tip of Novaya Zemlya and across the Kara Sea to the Gulf of Ob, close to the Sabetta terminal area where the tests were conducted.

Aker Arctic says the testing program consisted of performance tests in two distinct ice thicknesses in ahead and astern directions as well as in the oblique mode. Various operational tests were also carried out in order to determine the maneuverability and operational capability of the vessel. The thickness and strength of the ice was measured in the areas where tests were carried out. An automatic measurement system was set up to record ice loads on the ship’s hull through the whole three-week voyage which concluded in Murmansk on Friday, 10 April.

“Although the ice conditions in the area were on the upper end of the vessel’s designed icebreaking capability and the ice in the Gulf of Ob was considerably stronger than typical sea ice, Baltika exceeded expectations and the required performance targets were passed with a clear margin,” says Aker Arctic in a statement on their website.

“The vessel could break 1.2-metre level ice in continuous motion when proceeding bow first and could achieve a speed exceeding 3 knots in astern direction. The oblique mode, which had never been tested before in real life, also worked extremely well and the vessel fulfilled all the design requirements. During operational tests, Baltika also demonstrated excellent maneuverability and rubble clearing capability in the port of Sabetta as well as ability to penetrate heavy compressive ice ridges in the Kara Sea without ramming.”

According to Project Manager Mika Hovilainen who was on board the vessel during the ice trials, “Baltika’s voyage to the Gulf of Ob proves the exceptional operational capability of the oblique icebreaker concept in very difficult ice conditions. The vessel could operate in ice conditions that exceeded the design criteria used as the basis of the vessel concept. Baltika could carry out the same operations as conventional icebreakers with just half of the propulsion power as well as perform maneuvers which are not possible for any other vessel currently in service.”

Vessel particulars:

Builder: Arctech Helsinki Shipyard in co-operation with Shipyard Yantar JSC
Design: Aker ARC 100
Owner: Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport of Russia (Rosmorrechflot)
Operator: Russian Marine Emergency Rescue Service (FGI Gosmorspassluzhba)
Length 76.4 m
Breadth overall 20.5 m
Draught 6.3 m
Power: Diesel-electric 9MW via (3) Wärtsilä 9L26 genset
Propulsion: (3) 2.5 MW Steerprop azimuth thrusters
Dynamic positioning: Navis Engineering
Speed 14 knots
Speed in flat ice 1.0 m thick 3.0 knots
Crew 24
Special personnel 12
Sea endurance 20 days (24 persons)
Class: Russian Maritime Register of Shipping, Icebreaker6