Polaris, a vessel described as the most environmentally friendly icebreaker ever built, could point the way towards a new generation of greener ice-class vessels – if the market picks up
The market for ice-class offshore support vessels has been hard hit by the downturn in the offshore oil and gas industry following the steep decline in the oil price. Exploiting offshore oil and gas reserves in the Arctic and sub-Arctic is an expensive business, more expensive than many deepwater projects in balmier climes that have been put on hold in the last couple of years. It might be that president-elect Trump’s plans for energy security in the US could provide a boost for exploration off the US coast, even in Alaska, where costs are high, but that remains to be seen.
When the market does come back, Polaris, which was delivered to the Finnish Transport Agency earlier this year, could point the way for ice-class designs. Polaris is based on the Aker ARC 130 concept developed for the Finnish Transport Agency by Aker Arctic in co-operation with ILS Oy. Ice model testing was carried out at Aker Arctic’s ice laboratory. In fact, two icebreaking support vessels based on the Aker ARC 130 A concept, which is a further development of the Finnish icebreaker, are already under construction at Vyborg Shipyard PJSC in Russia.
Built by Arctech Helsinki Shipyard for state-owned Arctia Icebreaking Oy, Polaris has an IMO Tier III and Baltic Sea sulphur emission control area (SECA)-compliant dual-fuel power plant capable of using both liquefied natural gas (LNG) and low sulphur marine diesel oil as fuel. A specially developed hullform and propulsion arrangement with three azimuth propulsion units – two in the stern and one in the bow – is designed to minimise ice resistance and maximise the icebreaking capability of the vessel. The main missions of Polaris are icebreaking and escort operations in all prevailing ice conditions in the Baltic Sea. The vessel is also able to undertake oil spill response operations, emergency towing and rescue operations at sea, year round.
Polaris is an exceptional icebreaker by any standards, with a level of performance that exceeds that of other highly regarded Finnish icebreakers, Urho and Sisu, both built in the 1970s, which were widely recognised as the most capable icebreakers in northern Baltic conditions. One of its main roles will be breaking ice and assisting other vessels in difficult ice conditions in the northern Gulf of Bothnia, where ice ridges can grow to more than 10m thick.