Northern Sea Passage and Sibir- Russia’S & World’S Biggest & Most Powerful Nuclear Icebreaker Ship (Download PDF)


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Russia has launched Sibir (Siberia) which is world’s largest nuclear-powered icebreaker ship built under Project 22220 at the Baltic Shipyard in St Petersburg. Icebreaker is a special-purpose ship which can navigate through ice-covered waters providing safe waterways for other boats and ships.

Image of Northern Sea Route vs Suez Canal

Image of Northern Sea Route Vs Suez Canal

Image of Northern Sea Route vs Suez Canal

Project 22220

  • Project 22220 aims to build biggest nuclear powered icebreakers. Sibir is second of three biggest nuclear powered icebreakers under Project 22220.

  • The first one was Arktika (Arctic) was put in service in June 2016.

  • Third icebreaker Ural is due to be completed in 2019.

  • Russia is only country producing nuclear-powered icebreakers.

  • Project 22220 icebreakers ensure year-round navigation in western Arctic through Arctic Ocean as well as in rivers.


  • 173 meters long and 34 meters wide with displacement capacity of 33500 metric tons.

  • Has dual-draft design to break through 13 feet (3 metres) thick ice

  • Powered by two next generation RITM-200 nuclear-reactors

  • In can be used in Arctic waters and also in estuaries of polar rivers.

  • Designed to transport cargo along the Northern Sea Passage, a naval route near Artic recently becoming more accessible due to climate change and is 12 to 15 days shorter than traditional route through the Suez canal.

Northern Sea Passage

Image of Northern Sea Route

Image of Northern Sea Route

Image of Northern Sea Route

  • Shipping route officially defined by Russian legislation as lying east of Novaya Zemlya and specifically running along the Russian Arctic coast from the Kara Sea, along Siberia, to the Bering Strait.

  • Lies in Arctic waters within Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Unfortunately the route puts substantial pressure on an already threatened Arctic ecosystem

  • Melting Arctic ice caps are increasing commercial viability of the Northern Sea Route with shifts in trade flows between Asia and Europe, diversion of trade within Europe, heavy shipping traffic in the Arctic and a substantial drop in Suez traffic.

  • Previously the northern sea route was only open for four months only with use of ice-breakers.

  • There has been an overall decline in Arctic sea ice over the past 30 years, linked by scientists to rising global temperatures which has made this route more accessible boosting commercial shipping across this route.

  • Earlier in August 2017 for the first time a commercial LNG tanker- Christophe de Margerie sailed across Northern Sea Passage from Europe to Asia without the protection of an ice-breaker.

  • High insurance and large fees for Russian ice-breakers discourage use of riskier northern route. But the economic benefits are attractive - the Christophe de Margerie took just 19 days for the entire voyage, around 30 % faster than going by Suez Canal.

  • In 2016, the northern sea route saw 19 full transits from the Atlantic to the Pacific

- Published/Last Modified on: November 12, 2017

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