18 Nov 2022 14:29

Medvedev warns Russia may have deficit of icebreakers by 2030

MOSCOW. Nov 18 (Interfax) - Russia is running a risk of icebreaker deficit by 2030, as the construction of icebreakers is behind schedule and contract deadlines have been missed, Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said at a meeting of the Council's Interagency Commission for the Provision of Russian National Interests in the Arctic.

Medvedev pinpointed fleet problems that need urgent resolution.

"This is a matter of the general situation with the icebreaking fleet, as the fleet of nuclear-powered ships is ageing, just like some other elements of our transport system. Half of the fleet is operated by the Rosatom corporation. Those ships were built by technologies of the past, which used to be quite modern but have obviously stopped being such and their service life has been repeatedly extended," Medvedev said.

The icebreakers' service life will expire by 2026-2027, he said.

"There is a risk of icebreaker deficit by 2030 unless they are quickly replaced by new ships built by modern projects. As you know, such projects exist, they are being implemented," Medvedev said, reminding the meeting participants that the use of the Northern Sea Route and presence in the Arctic was being politicized.

Although Russia is the main Arctic state, numerous attempts have been made to squeeze it out of "the central field" into the background, Medvedev said. "This is why a deficit of the icebreaking fleet is inadmissible," he said.

Slow construction and missed contract deadlines may be the cause of deficit among other factors, Medvedev said.

"It is planned to sign a government contract for the construction of two more ships of this class by the end of the year. However, we should realistically assess their cost. We need to know the degree of preparedness of equipment manufacturers and suppliers, given the significant difficulties we are experiencing today under the Western sanctions," he said.

A number of problems have revealed themselves during the construction and commissioning of icebreakers, Medvedev said. "There are problems caused by deadlines missed due to late delivery, shortages of skillful personnel, and the need for additional funding. These problems are not new, but let me be honest, they have grown complicated, and the projects are really behind schedule, this has not been fixed," Medvedev said.

He invited meeting participants to suggest how the projects could catch up with the schedule.

The sanctions and the reorientation of Russian exports are expected to increase cargo traffic along the Northern Sea Route, which also requires accelerated construction of icebreakers, he said.

"The structure of cargo traffic along the Northern Sea Route has changed because of the latest events. Consignors are expecting cargo traffic to grow more than planned in the Arctic in 2024. Cargo traffic is expected to grow in general. This will happen for a number of reasons, including the sanctions and the reorientation of Russian energy exports from Western countries to Asia-Pacific nations," Medvedev said.

That will increase the demand for nuclear-powered icebreakers to lead ships through the ice, he said.

"Clearly, we should also expedite the construction of conventional, diesel-electric icebreakers to lead ships near large terminals, which we already have in these latitudes, and will replace nuclear-powered icebreakers for work in the eastern sector of the Northern Sea Route," Medvedev said.