Russian Navy design bureau presents civilian multi-purpose Arctic cruise liner

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - July 2, 2024
This ‘Star-Wars-looking’ icebreaker class ship can within some years sail into the waters of Svalbard and Arctic Russia. Image by Almaz Design Bureau

Expedition voyages, passenger cruises and scientific work are the three options Russia’s new icebreaking vessel can be use for.

The hull and concept design is based on the Project 23550, from before known Navy’s combat icebreaker Ivan Papanin and the coming FSB Coast Guard icebreaker.

While Ivan Papanin, which starts sea trial this week, will be armed with cruise missiles, the new civilian version of the icebreaker will get more comfortable conditions for upper class passengers or researchers.

Today, Russia lacks a passenger vessel designed for sailings in Arctic waters.

Arktikugol, the state-owned company in charge of all Russia’s operations on Svalbard, in April announced their intention to start direct tourist voyages to Barentsburg.

The company, however, has no ships capable of sailing tourists from Murmansk to the Norwegian archipelago which in accordance with the 1920 Svalbard Treaty is open for Russian citizens to visit without holding a Schengen-visa.

Design bureau Almaz, part of United Shipbuilding Corporation, says the new icebreaker will be able sail in 1,7 meter thick first-year ice. The ship holds Arc7 ice class.

Barentsburg is Russia’s main settlement at Svalbard, but complicated to travel to as tourists need to fly in via mainland Norway. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

The icebreaker concept, named Kunashir, stipulates cabins for 77 passengers and a crew of 55.

Before Moscow’s all-out war on Ukraine, several international expedition cruise vessels were sailing Russia’s Northern Sea Route to Arctic beauty-spots along the north coast of Siberia and to archipelagos like Franz Josef Land and New Siberian Islands.

The new icebreaker might once again offer such cruises to the high-end market of wealthy tourist expedition travellers.

Located in Kirkenes, Norway, just a few kilometres from the borders to Russia and Finland, the Barents Observer is dedicated to cross-border journalism in Scandinavia, Russia and the wider Arctic.

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