Vessel powered by ABB Azipod® propulsion reaches North Pole for the first time in history

Norwegian Coast Guard’s vessel KV Svalbard was on an international environmental research expedition when it became the first ever Azipod®-powered ship to reach the North Pole

With its superior performance in the harshest of ice conditions, Azipod® propulsion has become an industry standard for icegoing vessels, enabling vessels to cross the Northern Sea route independently. In late August 2019, Azipod® propulsion has made history, driving a Norwegian Coast Guard icebreaker all the way to the North Pole. In another historical debut, KV Svalbard became the first Norwegian vessel to sail to the ‘top of the world’.

  • KV Svalbard at the North Pole. Photo courtesy of the Norwegian Coast Guard.
  • The crew of KV Svalbard at the North Pole. Photo courtesy of the Norwegian Coast Guard.
  • KV Svalbard at the North Pole. Photo courtesy of the Norwegian Coast Guard.
  • Commanding officer Geir-Magne Leinebø and expedition leader CAATEX Dr. Hanne Sagen at the North Pole. Photo courtesy of the Norwegian Coast Guard.

KV Svalbard, built in 2001 and equipped with twin 5MW Azipod® icebreaking units, was sailing in the Arctic waters as part of the international scientific expedition, Coordinated Arctic Acoustic Thermometry Experiment (CAATEX), led by a Norwegian non-profit research foundation Nansen Center.

The aim of the expedition was to place seabed sensors that would allow the scientists to monitor water temperatures in the Arctic waters. Reaching the North Pole adds another dimension to the research, enabling data collection from some of the most remote parts of the Arctic Ocean.

“We were able to navigate through the Arctic waters and reach the North Pole faster than we thought possible,” said Ottar Haugen, Commander of the Norwegian Coast Guard. “This is a significant milestone for us and a proof that we have a vessel in our fleet equipped with a robust propulsion system that enables operations in the harshest ice conditions – all the way to the North Pole.”

The Azipod® propulsion system, where the electric drive motor is in a submerged pod outside the ship hull, can rotate 360 degrees to increase maneuverability, which is particularly crucial for vessels operating in ice. Azipod® icebreaking propulsion is capable of breaking up to 2.1 m thick Arctic ice and has a proven ability to cut fuel consumption by up to 20 percent compared to traditional shaftline propulsion systems.

ABB has delivered electric propulsion systems to over 90 icebreakers or ice-going vessels with a propulsion power of up to 45 MW. Options for Azipod® propulsion span 1MW to 22MW, and the technology has played a key role in developing ABB’s strong position for environmentally-friendly electric propulsion.

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a pioneering technology leader with a comprehensive offering for digital industries. With a history of innovation spanning more than 130 years, ABB is today a leader in digital industries with four customer-focused, globally leading businesses: Electrification, Industrial Automation, Motion, and Robotics & Discrete Automation, supported by its common ABB Ability™ digital platform. ABB’s market‑leading Power Grids business will be divested to Hitachi in 2020. ABB operates in more than 100 countries with about 147,000 employees.

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