ABB Azipod® propulsion leading the way in Arctic waters for over 15 years

ABB Azipod® propulsion leading the way in Arctic waters for over 15 years

Over 15 years have passed since the delivery of Norilsk Nickel – the head vessel of six cargo ships ‘Arctic Express‘ series. The fleet of Russian metal and mining company Nornickel has been operating without interruption through some of the world’s most heavily ice-bound waters in Arctic, thanks to their unique combination of clever design and pioneering propulsion.

The six ships – five container ships and one tanker – are equipped with a single 13-MW ABB Azipod® propulsion system. With the ability to turn through 360°, the powerful units increase maneuverability and operating efficiency, enabling the 170-meter length vessels to navigate perilous waters independently.

Each vessel of Arctic Express series equipped with a single 13 MW ABB Azipod® propulsion system. Image credit: Alexey Bystrov
Each vessel of Arctic Express series equipped with a single 13 MW ABB Azipod® propulsion system. Image credit: Alexey Bystrov

Nornickel can lay claim to taking delivery of the first vessels built to Arc7 ice class for unassisted operations in Arctic waters, and to opening the era of double-acting Arctic ships capable of breaking ice moving both ahead and astern.

Icegoing ships powered by Azipod® propulsion can operate with the so-called Double-Acting ship capabilities, running ahead in open water and astern in heavy ice conditions. Propellers mill the underwater part of the ice ridge to open a passage; water flow generated by the propeller flushes the hull, allowing the ship to move ahead with ease. This capability allows ships to navigate in ice-covered seas without icebreaker assistance, while keeping higher speeds and consuming less power.

Milestones are not hard to find where these innovative vessels are concerned. In 2010, the Monchegorsk became the first arctic cargo vessel to complete a round-trip voyage along the Northern Sea Route without the assistance of an icebreaker, after delivering containers from Murmansk to Shanghai. In 2011, the Zapolyarniy vessel of this series repeated this route.

  • The Zapolyarniy vessel repeated after the Monchegorsk a round-trip voyage along the Northern Sea Route without the assistance of an icebreaker. Image credit: Alexey Bystrov
  • In 2010, the Monchegorsk became the first arctic cargo vessel to complete a round-trip voyage along the Northern Sea Route without the assistance of an icebreaker. Image credit: Alexey Bystrov

Due to absolute success of this pioneering project, Azipod® propulsion has established its position as the leading propulsion solution for icegoing ships. “It is fair to say that no company has more knowledge and experience of electric marine propulsion in Arctic vessels than ABB,” said Sergey Shevchuk, Local Division Manager, ABB Marine & Ports Russia.

Sergey Kudryavtsev, Captain of the Monchegorsk, participated in the voyage in 2010. “We have become accustomed to safe and efficient operations in ice and to the better maneuverability and easier handling we get with the Azipod® unit. Some of us also remember when unassisted passage along the Northern Sea Route was just an idea, but now it is a part of day-to-day reality,“ Kudryavtsev commmented.

“The icebreaking Azipod® propulsion system was groundbreaking on its introduction and, as 15 years of successful operation for Nornickel demonstrate, it remains unsurpassed as a safe and efficient propulsion solution for ice-going ships,“ Shevchuk added.

ABB‘s landmark also reflects the fact that no other supplier can claim a longer record when it comes to providing through-life service support for Northern Sea Route (NSR) ships, especially given that its 24/7 technical support and remote diagnostics services are offered on a global basis. Here too, however, Shevcuk emphasises that service commitments to the Arctic maritime industries have been fully focused on customer needs.

ABB has a global network of eight ABB Ability™ Collaborative Operations Centers in 30 countries over five continents providing 24/7 technical support to 1,500 ships around the world. The latest addition to the network, the Murmansk Marine Service Center, was opened in 2019 to meet the growing needs of the Arctic maritime industries.

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