Arctic-class shuttle tankers to be tested in 2009

Eric Watkins
Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 29 -- The American Bureau of Shipping, ConocoPhillips, Sovcomflot Ltd., and Samsung Heavy Industries Ltd. are jointly participating in a pioneering study to measure the effect of ice loads on Arctic-class shuttle tanker performance.

The US Congressional Information Bureau Daily Maritime Bulletin said the joint project will provide researchers with important data regarding stresses shuttle tankers experience when operating in ice-covered waters.

"We have considerable experience measuring ice loads on ice breakers and smaller ships, but the scale effect of large ships operating in heavy ice conditions is not as well defined," said Aleksandr Iyerusalimskiy, part of ConocoPhillips's project services section.

The study will be conducted on the 70,000-dwt Shturman Albanov during its initial two winter seasons operating in the Barents Sea.

The Shturman Albanov is the third in a series of Arctic shuttle tankers scheduled for delivery from SHI, and is due in February 2009. CIB said a state-of-the-art monitoring system will employ fiberoptic sensors within the ice belt at two locations in the bow and stern quarters to measure and record ice pressures and loads.

The system also will compute ice-induced responses of the hull structure at highly loaded locations, while a bridge display depicting a color plot of the pressure distribution over each area includes an alarm to alert crews of large impacts.

"The goal is to provide real time feedback to operators, reducing the uncertainty that can exist today, and then use this information to mitigate the risks involved," said ABS's research & development manager Han Yu.

"As vessel requirements change to meet industry needs, research continues to assess the practicality of these new designs in more extreme operating conditions. It is a fundamental element in the cycle of ship design."

Sovcomflot took delivery of Russia's first Arctic shuttle tanker, the Vasily Dinkov, from SHI last year.

The Vasily Dinkov, along with sister tankers Shturman Albanov and Kapitan Gotsky has an ice-enhanced hull structure, designed in accordance with LU6 (1A Super) ice-class, under the classification of the Russian Register of Shipping.

The ships will be able to operate in temperatures of –40° C. and in breaking ice as thick as 1.5 m without an icebreaker escort.

The Vasily Dinkov is said to be one of the most advanced Arctic oil tankers in the world. One end of the ship is fitted with an ice-breaking bow, the other with a more conventional open-sea bow. The propeller system can rotate 360° so the tanker can pass through the open sea or plow through ice without sacrificing fuel efficiency.

Earlier this year, the tanker's design passed a major test when it delivered a shipment of oil from the Varandey oil terminal in the Barents Sea to the port of Come by Chance, off the coast of Newfoundland.

It was the first time such a shipment was made from the icy waters of the Barents Sea without an icebreaker escort.

"Our company has created a unique sea-export system which makes it possible to transport large quantities of oil to Polar regions," said Vagit Alekperov, chief executive officer of Lukoil, which owns the terminal. "It is unrivalled in the world."

Meanwhile, production of the tankers is moving ahead as Russia's Admiralty Shipyard plans to move an enhanced ice-class tanker, the Mikhail Ulyanov, from a dry dock to a wet dock on Oct. 31 for the final stages of construction work.

The St. Petersburg-based shipyard is building Sovcomflot two 70,000 dwt enhanced ice-class tankers, designed to ship oil from Prirazlomnoye, an Arctic oil field operated by OAO Gazprom subsidiary Sevmorneftegaz.

Construction of the Mikhail Ulyanov started in 2007 and is to be completed in the summer of 2009, while the second tanker, the Kirill Lavrov, will be launched in 2009.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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