Spotted: Russian icebreaker escorts ship convoy to Antarctic station

Navigation through icy waters of the polar regions is a difficult task that requires crew members to be prepared for this challenging work.

The coming years are expected to see more ice cover melting, opening up new sea routes for ships and changing the international trade and shipping picture.

Over the past few years, more and more ship types are ice classed. Such vessels have a strengthened hull to enable them to navigate through sea ice.

To navigate ice-infested sea routes, many vessels rely on icebreakers – special-purpose ships designed to break sea ice and head the convoy of ordinary cargo vessels. Escorted vessels need to carefully follow the path cleared by icebreakers.

Photo: Rosmorport

On 27 December 2021, icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov of FSUE Rosmorport completed the pilotage of three vessels that delivered cargo for the Russian research station Vostok. Vostok is one of the most remote research station in the world.

114 people that were onboard Kapitan Khlebnikov arrived at the station as well.

The expedition is a part of the Strategy of development of activity of the Russian Federation in the Antarctic until 2030 and it is necessary in order to update the only Russian inland Antarctic station.

icebreaker
Photo: Rosmorport

Three vessels in the expedition delivered a new wintering complex weighing almost 7 thousand tons for the Russian inland Antarctic station and the necessary fuel.

Kapitan Khlebnikov laid an ice channel for unloading vessels at the ice berth and alternately ensured that vessels approached it and made their way out to clear water.

The work was complicated by ice conditions exceeding the icebreaker’s design capabilities, the proximity of icebergs, variable weather conditions, and the technical capabilities of the vessels being assisted, according to Rosmorport.

The icebreaker is now returning to its homeport of Vladivostok. It is expected to reach the seaport of Vladivostok in January. On the return voyage, it will have to cover over 7 thousand nautical miles.

Established by the former Soviet Union in 1957, the station is located about 1,300 kilometers from the geographic South Pole on top of approximately 3,700 meters of ice.

The new complex consists of five modules with a total area of 2.5 thousand square meters: zones for accommodation and recreation of polar explorers, a laboratory and a power station.

The aerodynamic shape of the modules of the new wintering complex will protect against snow drifts — a complex insulation system is installed in the 650 mm thick walls, the windows are equipped with pressure drop compensators, and the engineering systems are protected from freezing.