Helsinki shipyard lays keel of ultramodern icebreaking supply vessel

A keel laying ceremony at the Arctech Shipyard,Helsinki, Finland on January 19 marked the start of 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. It is being built under shipbuilding contracts signed by Sovcomflot (SCF Group), Russia's largest shipping company, and Arctech Helsinki Shipyard Oy -- a joint venture between Russia's United Shipbuilding Corporation (OAO OSK, as abbreviated in Russian) and STX Finland. As a result of this cooperation, 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.

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The international character of the project is evident from its 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 to service the underwater oil drilling operations 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 of the tender, 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 m 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.

Vessel dimensions: Deadweight - 3,950 tonnes Length overall - 99.2 m Breadth (molded) - 21.7 m Draft - 7.9 m Crew – 22

Speaking at the keel laying, Ilya Klebanov, the Chairman of Sovcomflot's Board of Directors, when speaking to the event's participants, said: "Today's event is the next stage in the implementation of the activity most in demand with Russian and international oil companies nowadays - the development of offshore energy projects. Using offshore equipment that meets the highest environmental and energy efficiency standards as well as the requirements of maritime safety is the key to successful implementation of these projects, in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. The Arctech shipyard, where the icebreaking supply vessels will be built, is a joint venture of Russia's USC and Finland's STX Finland. Blocks for the ships have been provided by one of the oldest Russian shipyards, Vyborg Shipyard. I am confident that Russo-Finnish cooperation in mutually beneficial areas, using high technology in the construction of specialized vessels, has excellent prospects and will be fully exploited."

Sergey Frank, Sovcomflot's President & CEO, said: "We are very pleased with this cooperation and are grateful to our partners for the opportunity to participate in the project. We were honoured to win the tender for the maintenance of such a large and complex project as Sakhalin-1, and are particularly pleased that we are expanding the long-term and mutually advantageous cooperation with such a respected client as Exxon Mobil. It is important that Russian shipbuilders are full-fledged participants in today's event. The vessels to be built represent a new generation of multifunctional ice-breaking supply vessels, designed in accordance with the highest international and Russian requirements and standards. Such ships are very much in demand with Russian and international oil companies, especially in the context of the development of energy projects in the Arctic shelf. The vessels will be registered in Russia, will operate under the national flag of the Russian Federation and will have Russian crews."

The President of United Shipbuilding Corporation Roman Trotsenko noted: "The construction of multipurpose supply vessels is the first order for Arctech Shipyard, a joint venture of USC and STX Finland. Of course, this is a new example of Russo-Finnish cooperation in this field and it is gratifying that the new generation of enhanced ice-class vessels is being built jointly by Russian and Finnish experts. Russia has a long experience of cooperation with Finnish shipbuilders, starting as long ago as the Soviet times. We see this breakthrough in shipbuilding for offshore energy projects not as an alternative, but as a powerful stimulus for our domestic shipbuilding."

January 20, 2012