Northern Sea Route Day 2, 16 August 2013 (continued)
Above: The powerful icebreaker Yamal at close quarters to 50 Let Pobedy
22:00 Moscow time on 16 August onboard 50 Let Pobedy
I woke up at 07:00 this morning to the sound of the hull hitting ice. I realised that it was the ice and jumped off the bed to take a photo from my cabin window. The sea was not extensively covered by ice. We had left Dixon just a half day ago and we were navigating well into the Kara Sea.
At 09:30, we were given a tour of the ship’s different decks and eventually shown to the navigation bridge of 50 Let Pobedy. By that time, the ice had begun to surround us. But the sea was calm with no strong winds and it was misty and foggy. The visibility was less than half a mile. The ship continued to crush ice and her impressive power allowed her to navigate in a straight line, leaving a clear channel behind for a mile before the ice seemed to merge again.
A full tour of ship’s machinery spaces was given to us in the afternoon, including the core nuclear reactors and their control room, the electricity generators, the propulsion system, three power shafts, and the steering gear, with its power duplication arrangements. The ship is equipped with ample life-saving appliances, fire protection equipment, arrangements for radiation control and monitoring and all other health and safety equipment. This ship’s survival level is extremely high because of the special nature of its duty in the remote Arctic region. I was really impressed with all the design features of this remarkable vessel.
In the afternoon, we met a convoy led by another nuclear icebreaker, Yamal. She was escorting one huge LNG carrier and a bulk carrier through the Kara Sea, navigating from the north-east. After we crossed, I received a request from the Captain of the LNG carrier to have a radio call with him and I explained the purpose of my mission, highlighting the importance of the activities of IMO for Arctic navigation, and expressed my best wishes to him.
The north-eastern part of the Kara Sea is currently accumulating ice, due to a continuous wind from the north for several days. Conditions were getting worse. Before we reached the north of Cape Chelyuskin, leaving the Kara Sea and turning around the northern most point of Asia, 50 Let Pobedy was involved in serious activities to provide support for another nuclear icebreaker, Vaygach, which was leading a convoy oftwo ships. Later, 50 Let Pobedy was actively involved in supporting another huge bulker, stationed in ice-covered water waiting for a convoy to help her. The bulker carried an Arctic pilot, boarded at Murmansk, to support her Arctic voyage. 50 Let Pobedy u-turned, circled and made various manoeuvres to provide the expected support to other ships and even to other icebreakers. This really is a powerful icebreaker, breaking ice, riding on ice, making cracks in ice and creating water channels. I could really sense the power of these nuclear icebreakers.
Our climate is changing, and the area of multi-layer ice has been shrinking due to the increase in seawater temperature. Navigation through the Arctic using the Northern Sea Route has become a reality in summer. However, the Arctic waters are still extreme, even in summer, and the power of nature cannot be underestimated. I am in no doubt that, in the conditions I have observed, the active support of these powerful icebreakers is still essential for safe passage of the Arctic Ocean, although we should rigorously explore the possibility of Arctic navigation under the mandatory Polar Code currently being developed at IMO.
Day two of this voyage has been a remarkable one. I witnessed icebreakers carrying out their vital role in the ice-covered Kara Sea. Our ship is subject to continuous vibration from the ice-breaking movement and it is always fascinating to watch the changing shapes of the ice ahead of the vessel. But I have day three tomorrow, so I now leave my iPad for bed in my cabin.
Below, a seismic survey ship, part of the convoy of icebreaker Vaygach, photographed from the navigation bridge of 50 Let Pobedy
Northern Sea Route, Day 2, 16 August 2013
I woke up at 07:00 to the sound of a collision with an ice floe.
Within an hour, we had entered the area of continuous ice. This means that the ice breaker continually collides with the ice and the noise and vibration do not stop.
The icebreaker continues to move straight ahead. It is only 14 hours since we departed Dixon. Our speed is steady at 18 knots.
Northern Sea Route: Day One, 15 August 2013
I am settling down in my cabin aboard the Russian icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy after day one of my mission to the Northern Sea Route.
We left Moscow last night, departing the domestic airport at 23:15 and arriving at Norilsk around 03:30 this morning. I and Mr Melenas, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to IMO, were accompanied by Deputy Transport Minister Olersky and Viacheslav Ruksha, the Director General of Rosatom Flot, the national authority responsible for the operation of icebreakers, as well as three accompanying journalists.
Because of the poor visibility due to fog, our helicopter flight was delayed by some five hours and we arrived at Dixon (73.30N, 80.31E) around 14:00. Immediately we visited the Dixon Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) and received a briefing from the Head of the MRCC, Victor Shcurov, on its activities and duties. This MRCC covers all of the Arctic Ocean including the Kara Sea, Laptev Sea and Eastern Siberian Sea from 35.00E to 168.58W, together with the Sub-Centres at Tiksi and Pevek. Radiocommunication and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System are of great interest in the context of Arctic navigation and I was briefed that the gap in coverage of the INMARSAT satellite communication system in and around the Laptev Sea is filled by a supplementary terrestrial communication system.
After the short visit to the MRCC, we finally went aboard the icebreaker at 17:30.
It has been a long day and we decided not to carry out any on-board activity today. We will have a briefing on the icebreaker tomorrow morning and then carry out a number of activities to demonstrate and experience the Arctic Ocean and polar navigation.
It is now 20:10 and the sea is full of light, though the sky is cloudy and with some gusts of wind. Moscow time will maintained aboard the Icebreaker throughout the voyage, and therefore I will set my days using Moscow time so that I will not encounter any more time lag, even though I will travel to the extreme east, approaching Pevek.
Top, aboard the 50 Let Pobedy - high winds but no ice as yet
Above, approaching the 50 Let Pobedy from the air
Below, on the transfer boat with Deputy Minister Olersky
Bottom, At the MRCC in Dixon
Sustainable Maritime Transport System
This year’s World Maritime Day theme for IMO is Sustainable Development: IMO’s contribution beyond Rio+20. In this context, I am promoting a concept of a Sustainable Maritime Transport System (SMTS).
SMTS is not just for the shipping industry. The shipbuilding industry, ports and terminals, seafarers, energy fuel suppliers, financial institutions, maritime education and training institutions, maritime Administrations, classification societies, and the ship recycling industry are all important elements of the SMTS.
Bangladesh is a country of large population living literally on rivers and coasts, with a long maritime history and tradition, including the production of beautiful wooden boats. Today, the country is facing significant challenges in meeting Millennium Development Goals and health and safety standards for workers but this country has a great potential in terms of contributing towards the SMTS.
The current Government is taking action to modernise the country’s maritime industries, including shipbuilding and ship recycling and the inland waterways passenger ferry industry, strengthening seafarer’s educational institutions and strengthening legislation to meet international standards. This is all under the leadership of the Prime Minister supported by the Shipping Minister as well as Ministers dealing with related industries. What impressed me most in my courtesy visit to the Prime Minister was her expressed determination to care for the people of this maritime nation.
Mission to Bangladesh
I am now in Dhaka on an official mission to Bangladesh.
On arrival on Monday, 24 June, I visited Parliament, where I had a meeting with the Honourable Dr Dipu Moni, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In offering my appreciation for the invitation to visit Bangladesh, I emphasised the importance of developing the maritime industry for the future prosperity of the country. I encouraged the Government to take action to ratify the Hong Kong Convention, because ship recycling is an important industry, both for shipping and for global sustainable development. Later, at a welcome dinner with representatives of the shipping industry of Bangladesh, I took the opportunity to formally thank the Honourable Mr. Shajahan Khan, Shipping Minister, for his kind invitation.
On Tuesday, I visited Chittagong and the Bangladesh Marine Academy, where I participated in a ceremony to mark 50th anniversary of the Academy. The event was arranged to coincide with the celebration of the Third ‘Day of the Seafarer’. A rally was organised, involving Academy staff and cadets, and featuring a cultural show. I stayed overnight in the Academy’s excellent guest accommodation. I observed our Day of the Seafarer campaign ‘Faces of the Sea’ through Facebook and Twitter, and celebrated the day with the Academy members.
Today, Wednesday, I visited a recently-developed shipbuilding facility and, as a highlight of the mission, the Sitakunda ship recycling yard. In the context of the sustainable development, if ship recycling is done in an environmentally sound manner, it should be recognised as a green industry because almost everything is processed and recycled. The importance of this industry should be properly recognised. People working in it deserve proper care. Health and safety standards should be observed and rigorous measures for pollution prevention should be implemented. I understand that the Government is taking necessary actions to modernise this industry to comply with international standards, and I was encouraged to learn that workers are now receiving safety training and medical care at newly established facilities. I hope that the Government of Bangladesh will ratify the Hong Kong Convention as soon as possible.
Tomorrow, I will visit inland water ferry terminals and observe recent developments in improving the safety of river transportation.