For Arctic Dominance, Russia is racing to build massive icebreakers.
Cranes hover over the sparkling Neva River as hundreds of workers construct four nuclear-powered icebreakers at Saint Petersburg’s historic Baltic Shipyard.
The massive vessels, which are emblazoned with a Russian flag and named after the country’s northern regions, are designed to secure Moscow’s supremacy over the melting Arctic.
Russia has hurried to establish itself as a regional force, with the melting ice allowing Moscow to create a new maritime route.
President Vladimir Putin has prioritized the warming of the region, investing extensively in the so-called Northern Sea Route, which allows ships to reach Asian ports up to 15 days faster than via the Suez Canal.
Although transit in the eastern Arctic generally ends in November, Moscow is hopeful that the icebreakers would allow it to use the route all year, as it becomes more accessible as a result of climate change.
With the exception of the Lenin, which is now a museum and stationed in the Arctic city of Murmansk, the vessels begin their journey at the imperial-era Baltic Shipyard, which was the origin of all Soviet nuclear-powered icebreakers.
The four new ships, the “Sibir,” “Ural,” “Yakutia,” and “Chukhotka,” will eventually be based there.
The warships represent a “great stride forward” in Arctic development, according to Kirill Myadzyuta, the shipyard’s chief of construction.
The ships, which stand 52 meters (170-foot) tall with a length of 173 meters (568 feet) and can smash through ice up to 2.8 meters (9.2 feet) thick, are built to withstand terrible weather conditions in the Far North.
Russia has not scrimped on reaping the benefits of the Arctic.
Rosatom, the state-owned atomic energy firm, spends more than 340 million euros ($400 million) on each ship it commissions.
Construction takes around 1,000 workers and takes five to seven years to complete.
Workers hustle up and down the “Sibir” (Siberia), which is expected to leave the shipyard at the end of the year, with a view of the city’s ancient cityscape.
In 2022, 2024, and 2026, the other ships are expected to join the Rosatom fleet in Murmansk.
“It’s a pretty fine ship,” said Oleg Shapov, the Sibir’s prospective commander, who has been based in Saint Petersburg to monitor the vessel’s final stages of construction.
The Sibir, according to Shapov, will be a better version of its predecessor, the Arktika, which was launched with considerable fanfare last year.
Shapov, who is preparing to hire crew for the Sibir, said, “We definitely need these ships in the Arctic.”
For Russia’s usage of the Arctic, the icebreakers will be a game changer. Brief News from Washington Newsday.