A new generation of green icebreakers will be built this decade for Baltic Sea operations, and are to use fossil-free fuels from 2030
Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency (FTIA) and Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA) set out their requirements for new icebreakers to escort larger ships while emitting less CO2 and other harmful emissions.
They require more powerful and larger vessels because the size of merchant ships entering Finnish and Swedish ports is rising, and increasing environmental requirements are gradually limiting the engine power of these ships.
Together, FTIA and SMA contracted Aker Arctic to design this new generation of icebreakers for assisting ships with beams of up to 32 m.
These will incorporate the latest environmental technologies for cost-effective operations, low lifecycle costs and will be able to transition to fossil-free fuels by 2030.
SMA director-general Katarina Norén said the icebreakers would be needed for more than four months of the year to keep key ports open to trade. “The Swedish industry is dependent on icebreaking in the Baltic Sea up to 130 days a year,” she said.
“Our current fleet is old and increasingly needs repairs. Therefore, we look forward to the design of the next generation of icebreakers to service larger ships in a fossil-free environment,” Ms Norén said.
FTIA director-general Kari Wihlman said keeping Finnish ports open and larger ships docking was important for the nation. “Our foreign trade and competitiveness are based on year-round security of supply,” he said.
“An adequate level of assistance available from icebreakers is a prerequisite for ensuring the raw materials and different products are in the right place at the right time,” Mr Wihlman continued. “New solutions are expected from this design project to respond to changes in the operating environment as well as to maintain an adequate level of service also in the future.”
The design process starts with research and evaluating alternative icebreaker concepts.
“This new ship will represent a completely new generation of icebreakers,” said Aker Arctic managing director Reko-Antti Suojanen. “It will incorporate design, construction and operational experience from existing Baltic assistance icebreakers as well as our other icebreaker designs,” he said.
A concept will be selected in March when the first cost estimate for the construction of the icebreaker is available.
“As the operational requirements and environmental conditions are changing in the Bothnian Bay, we will work closely with the Finnish and Swedish operators to jointly develop a solution that best answers future icebreaking needs,” said Mr Suojanen. “With an operational lifetime spanning half a century, the new icebreaker must be designed to comply with future emissions goals,” he continued.
From Q2 2021, the focus of this project will be on the design details and construction specifications.
“Responding to this major technological challenge today will require us to apply the full extent of our icebreaker design expertise and utilise the latest environmental technologies developed by the maritime industry,” said Mr Suojanen.
“The design goals of this project are ambitious, and even though we have just designed icebreakers capable of reaching the North Pole, we consider this new icebreaker to be the most challenging design task we have ever faced,” he explained.
Design details and construction specifications will form the basis of the shipyard tendering process once a decision to build the icebreakers is made.