Now this might just look like someone’s far-fetched idea. Brilliant but unrealised. But in fact this ship is already under construction in the Archtech Shipyard in Helsinki, Finland.
The design of the Artech Baltika uses an asymmetric hull. Which means that when it’s on icebreaking duty it can be piloted sideways, making a much wider path through the ice than if it just went head-on. A typical icebreaker cuts a path roughly 25 metres (80 feet) wide – enough for most vessels – however too small for large container ships, meaning more than one icebreaker is needed to escort the cargo vessel. The Artech Baltika should be able to do the work of two icebreakers for the cost of one.
At 76 metres (250 feet) long and 20 metres (65 feet) wide, the Baltika is no small vessel in itself. It has three engine pods mounted around the hull which can be turned through 360 degrees allowing full freedom of movement. To help it in its aim to batter the ice into submission, the Baltika’s fuel and bilge water can be pumped to different sections of the hull in order to optimise its center of gravity.
There are some drawbacks to the design though. In tests the asymmetric hull means the vessel will have unusual pitching and rolling characteristics on a choppy sea. Artech say that the vessel’s crew will have to learn to adapt to the new design and the unconventional layout.
The need for icebreaking ships is on the rise, mainly because the increase in global temperatures has meant that it is now more feasible for ships to attempt the journey along Russia’s northern coast than ever before. Despite the fact the waters are still often covered with a layer of ice. Previously the journey was almost impossible, meaning that there was less need for icebreakers as ships almost exclusivley made the much longer yet safer journey though the Suez Canal.
The Baltika is due for completion sometime next year, it will operate under a Russian flag and clear routes for large ships headed for ports like St Petersburg. In addition to its regular icebreaking duties, the Baltika will be equipped with an advanced petroleum-recovery system, meaning it will be on the front line to assist in any clear-up operations of spilled oil.