Rosatomflot files lawsuits against shipyard, as world’s most powerful icebreakers are notoriously delayed

The new nuclear-powered Arktika has been plagued by delays and mechanical problems.

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer - August 19, 2020
Arktika sails out from the Baltiskiy Yard in St. Petersburg. (Rosatomflot via The Independent Barents Observer)

Three lawsuits with claims totaling close to 1 billion rubles (€11.5 million) are in court as two state-owned structures battle over Russia’s new fleet of troubled nuclear-powered icebreakers.

Few details on the content of the lawsuits are made public, but Rosatomflot, the federal enterprise operating and maintaining the fleet of nuclear powered icebreakers, is surely not happy about the endless list of delays and technical faults during construction of the three first giant ships of the Project 22220.

The new Arktika, lead vessel of the class, was supposed to sail out from the Baltic Shipyard in St. Petersburg to its home base in Murmansk in 2017. The first delay was caused by problems with delivering the main turbines to the ship’s engines because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The turbines were made at the Kharkov Turbine plant in Ukraine.

New delays came this year as a February test-sailing outside St. Petersburg resulted in a short circuit causing serious damage to the winding in one of the three electro engines on board. The entire engine has to be lifted out of the hull and replaced. Arktika was scheduled to sail north in June, but is still in St. Petersburg. A new date for the ship’s first voyage into the ice along the Northern Sea Route is now October, the news site 47 News recently reported.

The portal Atomnaya Energiya reports of the three lawsuits filed by Rosatomflot that one asks for 139 million rubles, the second 94 million rubles, while the third claim amounts to 733 million rubles.

The first part of the juridical battle started in St. Petersburg last week, as the builder of the icebreakers, Baltic Shipyard, filed a claim against Kirovsky Zavod (factory) and its two daughter companies, Zavod Kirov Energomash and Petersburg Tractor Plant. The two are suppliers to the construction of the icebreakers.

Then, the Baltic Shipyard itself has to meet in the Moscow Arbitration Court on request of Rosatomflot. Baltic Shipyard is part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, Russia’s state-owned and largest company building everything from navy surface ships, nuclear-powered submarines, icebreakers, tankers and fishing trawlers.

Rosatomflot is also a 100 percent state-owned company.

Arktika was laid down in 2013, but also the two following icebreakers of the Project 22220, laid down in 2015 and 2016 seem to face delays.

The Sibir was launched in 2017 and is still officially scheduled to be put into service in 2021. The ship, though, was only 70 percent ready this May, PortNews reported raising doubts it will be completed by next summer.

The third icebreaker, the Ural was launched in May 2019 with a promise to be handed over to Rosatomflot in 2022. Also that is in doubt, the 47 News reported with reference to Baltisky Shipyard’s General Director, Aleksey Kadilov. No new date was specified.

Construction of the fourth icebreakers of the Project 22220, the Yakutia, started this spring, while the firth, to be named Chukotka is planned to be laid down in 2021.