Moscow cuts funding for icebreaker fleet | Polarjournal
The icebreaker “Lider” will be the most powerful icebreaker with an output of 161,000 hp and will be able to break ice up to 4 meters thick. (Photo: Rosatom)

For the 2024-2026 budget, the Russian government is proposing to cut funding for the construction of nuclear icebreakers. Funding for the super-powerful “Lider” icebreaker (project 10510) with a capacity of 161,000 hp could be reduced by 5.25 billion roubles (50 million euros).It is assumed that the icebreaker is necessary for regular year-round shipping along the Northern Sea Route. It is being built at the Zvezda shipyard.

In addition, there are budget cuts of more than 4 billion roubles for the LK-60 icebreaker project 22220. The cuts in investment and the increase in construction costs will lead to a significant delay in Russia’s fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers.

In February 2023, it was reported that an update to Russia’s Arctic strategy envisages that only one Project 10510 vessel will be built before 2035. Instead, the focus will shift to two additional icebreakers from project 22220.

It is assumed that the icebreaker “Lider” is necessary for regular year-round shipping along the Northern Sea Route. (Photo: Rosatom)

The reduction in funding comes in light of a sharp rise in project costs. The cost increase is partly caused by sanctions imposed by the West. According to Russian media, prices for serial icebreakers could double and the costs for the “Lider” could rise by 60% to around 200 billion roubles (1.95 billion euros). The icebreaker “Lider” is expected to be commissioned at the end of 2029 and will operate under the name “Rossija”. The super-powerful ship will revolutionise shipping in Russian Arctic waters.

In March 2023, Russian media reported that the construction of the hull of the “Rossiya” had only progressed by 5% instead of the planned 15%. Large steel castings such as rudder horns and propeller shaft brackets which were originally ordered from the Ukrainian company Energomashspetsstal could not be delivered. The plant was damaged during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The work therefore had to be awarded to a domestic supplier who will not be able to deliver the parts to the shipyard before August 2025.

The LK-60 icebreakers of project 22220 will also be affected by the budget cuts. Three ships of this class are already in operation, such as the “Arktika” (pictured). The two additionally planned icebreakers “Jakutia” and “Chukotka” are also likely to be delayed. (Photo: Rosatom)

The situation is no better for the construction of the two additional LK-60 icebreakers “Kamchatka” and “Sakhalin”. The icebreakers were originally scheduled to cost 56.6 billion roubles and 61.3 billion roubles respectively and were to be completed in 2028 and 2030. The actual price is likely to be much higher and delivery is to be postponed. There are currently three ships of this class in operation – the “Arktika”, “Sibir” and “Ural” – and two more, the “Jakutia” and “Chukotka”, are under construction and are due to join the fleet in 2024 and 2026 respectively.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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