Huge bad luck for Russian polar research | Polarjournal

After major damage on the way to Antarctica, the transport icebreaker “Sevmorput” will return to St. Petersburg. (Foto: Kommersant)

The nuclear-powered freighter “Sevmorput”, which has been lying off Angola for several weeks, will not be able to fulfil its transport order to supply modules for the new polar station “Vostok”. The entire operation now is aborted. The damage to one of the propeller blades is not as easy to repair on site. Construction and transport specialists who were on their way to Antarctica with the icebreaker “Kapitan Dranitsyn” are already on their way home.

The maps of Marine Traffic show the movements of the “Sevmorput” on 26.11.2020 and the three previous days. (Photo: Marine Traffic)

Russian media have reported that the delivery of the modules for the new construction of the New Antarctic Station “Vostok” has been postponed until 2021. In the meantime, divers had arrived at the scene, but have not been able to repair the damage to date.

According to a report by Russian newspaper Kommersant , the propeller had an imbalance as a result of the broken blade. To eliminate this, the divers had decided to remove another propeller blade to restore symmetry. The work could not be completed due to bad weather. Protected waters in Angolan territory could facilitate repair. However, as it is a ship with a nuclear reactor, it requires “a complex coordination with the country’s authorities,” according to a government spokesman. The ship was unable to call at a port, but had to stay outside the 12 nautical miles off the coast. The situation is also complicated by severe restrictions in Angola in connection with the coronavirus.

Since the repair attempts of the divers were unsuccessful to this day and the window of opportunity to reach the Antarctic summer season soon closes, it was decided to call the “Sevmorput” back to St. Petersburg.

After the successful removal of the propeller blade, the “Sevmorput” should be able again to reach St. Petersburg independently. Back in St. Petersburg, the modules and containers are unloaded before the ship enters the dry dock for repair.

The icebreaker “Kapitan Dranitsyn” is already on its way back to St. Petersburg, but will most likely support the “Sevmorput” on the return journey. (Foto: Heiner Kubny)

The 98 construction specialists and machinists who were on the icebreaker “Kapitan Dranitsyn” for the transport of the material from “Progress” station in Prydz Bay to the “Vostok” station 1,400 kilometres away, are already on their way home. The icebreaker currently is back in Cape Town. The arrival in St. Petersburg is scheduled for December 31, much longer than such a trip from South Africa would normally take. Probably because the “Kapitan Dranitsyn” will support the damaged icebreaker “Sevmorput”, which will slow down the speed for the return journey and because the maneuverability will be diminisehd, as The Independent Barents Observer suspects in its detailed article.

After the failure of the “Sevmorput”, there were no other options than to cancel the whole operation. Spring in Antarctica is particularly warm this year and the ice is too weak if the icebreaker arrives too late, which would jeopardize unloading operations.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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