Russia’s Nornickel inks deal for LNG-powered icebreaker

Russian mining giant Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) said it has signed a deal to build one LNG-powered icebreaker which would escort ships carrying the company’s cargo along the Northern Sea Route.

Nornickel said in a statement on Friday it signed an agreement of intent to design and build the vessel with Russian state nuclear energy firm Rosatom and the Far Eastern Shipbuilding and Ship Repair Center (FESRC), part of Rosneft.

The partners will form a working group to develop terms of reference for the dual-fuel icebreaker design and construction, select a shipyard, but also consider financing options, Nornickel said.

Moreover, the firm expects the working group to prepare a draft contract for the vessel design and construction by mid-2022, it said.

Replacing older vessel

Nornickel, the largest industrial company in the Russian Arctic, has “unique expertise” in operating the NSR, a strategic transport artery of the global logistics system.

In 2020, the Nornickel fleet transported over 1.5 mt of cargo along the NSR, which accounts for around 5 percent of the route’s total cargo turnover, according to Nornickel.

The turnover of the Arctic ports of Dudinka and Murmansk is growing. Nornickel has been modernising and expanding infrastructure in port cities, as well as increasing and renewing its fleet to handle the increased cargo traffic.

Nornickel said the new LNG icebreaker would enable the company to replace the Taimyr-type vessel that would be decommissioned in 2027–2029.

“The new icebreaker will help the company to meet its ambitious goals, and the agreement will serve as an important step in building partnerships between leading Russian companies in the development of the Arctic,” Vladimir Potanin, Nornickel president, said.

Earlier this year, Nornickel also revealed plans to build a small-scale LNG plant in the Murmansk region as it looks to convert its heavy mining equipment to dual-fuel technology.

The world’s largest nickel and palladium producer is already working on a pilot project to convert dump trucks to dual-fuel operation.

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