The oblique icebreaker Baltika is serving as a standby vessel at the Arctic Gates oil terminal in the Gulf of Ob. In May 2017, Gazprom Neft's Novoportovskoye field reached a significant milestone when the total cumulative oil shipped from the terminal onboard icebreaking shuttle tankers exceeded five million tonnes. Aker Arctic had a significant role in the development of this year-round transportation system.
Baltika, the world’s first icebreaker with an asymmetric hull that allows icebreaking in ahead and astern directions as well as sideways, has been in service in the Gulf of Ob for almost two years. The vessel, originally designed by Aker Arctic as a multipurpose emergency and rescue vessel for the Gulf of Finland, was chartered by Gazprom Neft as an interim standby vessel for the Arctic Gates terminal in 2015 following successful full-scale ice trials in the same region. Alexey Shtrek, who works as Development Manager at Aker Arctic, recently visited Baltika while the vessel was in operation off Cape Kamenny.
Despite the fact that the vessel was not designed for operation in Arctic ice conditions, icebreaker Baltika has successfully carried out ice management at the Arctic Gates oil terminal in the Gulf of Ob for two consecutive winters. In early May, the thickness of fast ice around the terminal was about 1.6 m which is more than the maximum ice thickness found in the Gulf of Finland.
When tankers arrive at the Arctic Gates oil terminal – every other day on average – Baltika supports the mooring and loading operations together with the icebreaking supply vessel Vladislav Strizhov. The more maneuverable oblique icebreaker also independently maintains the approach channel and keeps the tanker mooring site near the terminal clean of brash ice. During these ice management operations, the asymmetric vessel can break the frozen edge of the channel with the inclined port side and clear the channel by pushing the brash ice with the vertical starboard side. The ability to use the azimuth propulsion units – two in the stern and one in the bow – to keep the vessel stationary while simultaneously flushing brash ice around the vessel has been highly appreciated by Baltika's master.
In addition to ice management, Baltika is also used to transfer loading and mooring masters as well as pilots to the tankers. The vessel's standby mission also include continuous readiness for emergency rescue and oil spill response operations.
While Baltika is acting as an interim standby vessel, Aker Arctic developed the Aker ARC 130 A icebreaker design to support tanker loading operations at the Arctic Gates terminal. Two vessels, Aleksandr Sannikov and Andrey Vilkitsky, are under construction at Vyborg Shipyard. These icebreakers, which represent a further development of the Finnish icebreaker Polaris with higher propulsion power and increased ice class, are capable of breaking up to 2 m thick level ice in both ahead and astern directions. They are specifically designed to operate in shallow water and challenging ice conditions such as thick consolidated brash ice.
Aker Arctic was also involved in the development of the 42,000 DWT shallow-draught icebreaking shuttle tankers that were built specifically to transport oil from the Gulf of Ob to the ice-free port of Murmansk. The lead ship, Shturman Albanov, was recently awarded Ship of the Year 2016 at the international 2017 Marine Propulsion Awards. These Arc7 ice class tankers are based on the double acting ship (DAS) principle developed by Aker Arctic for ships operating primarily without icebreaker assistance in challenging ice conditions. The hull form was developed in co-operation with Samsung Heavy Industries and the development work included five weeks of ice model testing at Aker Arctic's ice laboratory in Helsinki, Finland.
Photograph courtesy of Gazprom Neft