A keel laying ceremony held at the Arctech Shipyard (Helsinki, Finland), on 19 January 2012, marked the start of the construction of an ultramodern multi-functional icebreaking supply vessel. The ship is specially designed to service the oil drilling platform located on the north-eastern part of the Sakhalin Island shelf, near Russia’s Pacific coast.
The underlying shipbuilding contracts were signed by Sovcomflot (SCF Group), Russia’s largest shipping company, and Arctech Helsinki Shipyard Oy. The latter, in turn, being a joint venture between Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation (OAO OSK, as abbreviated in Russian) and STX Finland. As a result of this cooperation, the American oil and gas corporation Exxon Mobil is due to have two ideal, year-round, supply vessels for its Sakhalin-1 oil drilling project, operated by its Russian subsidiary Exxon Neftegas Limited.
The international character of the project is evident from its brief history, which started at the end of 2009, when Sovcomflot took part in Exxon Mobil’s tender for the construction and long-term use of two icebreaking supply vessels for its installations near Sakhalin. The vessels are supposed to service the underwater oil drills in Arkutun-Dagi, a major new phase of the Sakhalin-1 project. In June 2010 Sovcomflot was declared the tender’s winner.
Despite a Russian company being the winner in the tender process, not all works are being completed by Russian subcontractors. The main work went to a joint venture of Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation and the Finnish company STX Finland. Most of the work will be done in Helsinki, but the list of the project’s subcontractors includes, for example, Russia’s Vyborg Shipyard, which produced the blocks for both ships.
The project combines the Arctic expertise of Russia and the West, providing vessels capable of operating year-round either on rough seas or in the middle of ice fields. Vitus Bering and her sistership will be ideal vessels resulting from this international cooperation. They will be able to operate even if surrounded by 1,7 metre thick ice. Both ships will also be equipped with dynamic positioning systems allowing them to approach the platform in any weather conditions. The list of the two ships’ other capabilities includes escorting ships in ice conditions in the area around the platform, conducting oil spill containment operations, towing oil platforms and other large objects in the open sea. In order to facilitate maneuvering in ice conditions, the designers of the ships’ hull made it possible for both vessels to break ice not only with their bows, but also with their sterns, thus allowing for reverse movement. The power propulsion system, comprising four main engines, will provide an aggregate power of 18 MW.
Offshore Energy Today Staff, January 20, 2012; Image: Arctech