Finnish icebreaker Alfons Håkans has bought modern icebreaking tugs and is installing a removable bow on a vessel to tackle ice conditions in the Baltic
One of the biggest challenges for icebreakers and tugs operating in the Baltic region is tackling piled-up ice, sometimes cracking their way through ice stacked to more than 7 m high in shipping channels.
This is the one of the main tests in icebreaking, according to Alfons Håkans manager of health, safety, environment and quality Kimmo Lehto. The company operates a fleet of icebreakers and icebreaking tugs that keep ports and shipping channels clear of ice in Estonia, Finland and Sweden, also assisting with salvage and distressed ships.
“We have long term contracts with Finnish Traffic Agency and Swedish Maritime Administration for icebreaking in the sea area between Finland and Sweden,” Capt Lehto told Tug Technology & Business.
He said the fleet is continuously upgraded and renewed to keep up with the challenges faced in ice towage and icebreaking. The extreme cold weather conditions crew operate in, the increasing size of assisted vessels and stricter timetables are setting new demands on the fleet.
“The challenges are different but one of the main ones, even for the state-owned icebreakers, is when the ice moves with the wind and piles up to ridges up to 8 m high,” said Capt Lehto.
Ice has the potential to damage propellers, main engines and hull plating. It limits the speed and manoeuvrability of tugs and increases the collision risk between vessels and structures. Another concern is keeping seafarers and staff trained to maintain high quality operations in all situations.
Alfons Håkans added azimuth stern drive (ASD) tug Pallas in December 2018 to strengthen its fleet in the Gulf of Finland. This vessel took the name of an old tug the operator sold in December 2017.
Also in 2018, Alfons Håkans added conventional icebreaking tug Hurtig and ASD tug Poseidon to its fleet. Hurtig was brought from Sweden in July to be stationed in Uusikaupunki, Finland, to increase harbour icebreaking capacity. Alfons Håkans acquired tugboat Osman Gazi from Turkey and renamed it Poseidon, then stationed it in Estonia. It sold barge Scanbarge and tug Helios in July 2018 and conventional tug Fram in January 2019.
In another vessel upgrade, a removable icebreaking bow will be added on ASD tug Calypso during Q4 2019. Calypso has been modified in advance of this bow installation.
Fleet renewal is required to meet the changing requirements of its clients. In 2018, Alfons Håkans renewed its contract with Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency to use Zeus for icebreaking and emergency towage for another seven years. Zeus was on standby in Turku from the beginning of January, until the end of April. It usually operates in the Bothnian Sea and Kvarken areas.
Icebreaker Thetis was mobilised in January to Luleå, Sweden, for icebreaking duties in the Bay of Bothnia and assisting vessels bound for Swedish ports. It will be contracted to the Swedish Maritime Administration until mid-April.
“Thetis starts in the north and continues south according to the changing ice situation,” said vessel captain Mikael Stude. “Our preparations have gone better than expected,” he said. “Because of windy weather on the Bay of Bothnia the ice situation is still moderate. It will be interesting to see how the sea will freeze.”
Later this year, a powerful icebreaking tug with hybrid propulsion will begin services in the Gulf of Bothnia, from the Port of Luleå. This is currently under construction in Gondan Shipyard, in Figueras, Spain, to a Robert Allan design and with Wärtsilä’s HYTug hybrid power systems.
Its hull was launched in November 2018 at the shipyard. This was constructed to Lloyd’s Register class and a RAL TundRA 3600-H design with a hull structure that exceeds Finnish-Swedish ice-class rules.
It will be able to break 1-m ice at speeds of up to 3 knots, with a bollard pull of around 100 tonnes when operated in diesel-mechanical mode. Its hybrid propulsion will include two diesel main engines, shaft generators/motors and batteries for energy storage.
Port of Luleå will use this tug for ice management, escort, ship-assist, coastal towing and fire-fighting.