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World’s first methanol-ready icebreaker proceeds to construction stage

24 Feb 2023

The Aker ARC 130 S design for the world’s first methanol-ready icebreaker in the world has been finalised in close co-operation with the Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA) and optimised for Sweden’s icebreaking needs, according to Aker Arctic on Tuesday (21 February). 

Selection of shipyard

The decision to construct at least two new icebreakers for Sweden was made in December 2022. The first vessel is planned to be delivered in 2026 and the second about a year later.

Currently, SMA is evaluating shipyards which would have the expertise and possibility to build the vessels. This assessment should be ready in February 2023.

“After that, we can send out requests for tenders and continue the dialogue with our shortlist of shipyards,” said Dan Broström, project manager at SMA. 

“We aim to sign the agreement in September 2023 and begin construction preparations immediately.”

Methanol chosen as fuel

The initial concept was prepared with the possibility of adapting the design for various alternative fuels. After Sweden selected renewable methanol as the future non-fossil fuel of its next-generation icebreakers, the design was finalised to consider the special requirements of methanol fuel and to maximise achievable autonomy time during assistance icebreaking operations.

“Currently, the plan is to build the icebreaker initially for fossil-free renewable diesel oil (hydrotreated vegetable oil; HVO) with readiness to adopt methanol fuel as soon as the technology has matured and fuel availability is secured,” Broström outlines. “The harbour generators will use methanol-based MD97 fuel from the start.”

However, since engine manufacturers are working tirelessly to advance the technology as fast as possible and various bio- and e-methanol plant projects are progressing in Sweden, it might well be feasible to build the icebreakers directly for biomethanol use.

Technical pioneers

The Swedish icebreakers will be the first methanol-ready and potentially the first methanol-fuelled icebreakers in the world. This continues the trend with the Baltic icebreakers as technical pioneers, the previous one being Finnish icebreaker Polaris, the world’s first LNG-fuelled icebreaker.

When the project began, Polaris and two Russian icebreakers, Aleksandr Sannikov and Andrey Vilkitsky, had recently been commissioned, all being part of the Aker ARC 130 family of icebreaker designs developed by Aker Arctic.

“We could benefit from the previous designs and develop them further,” says Mikael Sandström, Master mariner, nautical expert at SMA, who has been in charge of overseeing the technical details.


Photo credit: Aker Arctic
Published: 24 February, 2023

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