Sweden designs new icebreakers – together with Finland

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Three of Sweden’s five state-owned icebreakers, the Atle, the Frej and the Ymer, are approaching their 50th anniversaries and will need to be replaced in a few years. The Swedish Maritime Administration has now signed an agreement with the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency.

The Swedish Maritime Administration and the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency have signed an agreement to design the next generation of icebreakers, which will be both environmentally friendly and more high-tech than the existing ones.

“The advantage is, of course, that we can benefit from the knowledge and experience of our colleagues on the other side of the Gulf of Bothnia” says Tomas Årnell, director of icebreakers at the Swedish Maritime Administration.

Icebreaking is essential to enable industry to function all year round, especially in northern Sweden and Finland. Both countries now need to replace some of the vessels in their icebreaker fleets because of their age.

The requirements for the new icebreakers The newly designed vessels will have engines that can run on different types of fuels, such as gas, ethanol and biodiesel, but the operation of the icebreakers will not be completely fossil-free.

“They will still have to use fossil fuels in the short term, but, of course, they will be more environmentally friendly than today’s icebreakers” says Tomas Årnell.

The option of battery operation is also a requirement for the new icebreakers.

The existing icebreakers can create channels in the ice that are 24 metres wide, but when the Malmporten dredging project in the Gulf of Bothnia is completed in a few years, larger vessels will be able to use the port of Luleå, for example. Therefore, the new icebreakers must be able to make 32-metre-wide channels.

The three icebreakers that the Swedish Maritime Administration is aiming to withdraw from service in a few years were built in the 1970s and are reaching the end of their useful lives.

If the Swedish Maritime Administration is to order new icebreakers, an initial notification of funding from the Swedish government and parliament of approximately SEK 1.5 billion for each vessel is needed. Tomas Årnell hopes to receive the go-ahead before the end of the year.

If that happens, he explains that the first new icebreaker can be brought into operation in four years. The question is whether it should be named after a Norse goddess. Until now, all the state-owned icebreakers have been named after male gods.

“Yes, why not! I’m all in favour of that” says Tomas Årnell.