Russia’s new North Pole floating research platform prepares for maiden voyage

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There is still a lot of work to do. The 83-meter-long ship with its peculiar shape is wrapped in scaffolding in the Admiralty shipyard in St. Petersburg. But progress is rapid.

The research vessel Severny Polyus is now more than 90% ready, Russian Natural Resources Minister Alexander Kozlov said during his visit to the yard this week.

“Already this year, the ship will leave for its first expedition,” the minister said.

This expedition will not be large, but will be more like a sea trial to test key equipment.

Its first real voyage will be in 2023, when the Severny Polyus will sail through Arctic waters for a two-year expedition. The ship is designed to be able to drift with the arctic currents without interruption for two years.

“The ice shelf is our country’s contribution to the development of the Arctic,” Kozlov said in a comment.

The ship’s construction is also seen as a contribution to Russia’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council, and international researchers are expected to be invited to the first tour.

The Severny Polyus will house a crew of 14 and a research team of 34. It will be operated by the Russian meteorological service Rosgidromet.

The captain on board will be Sergei Nesterov, an experienced sailor in the Arctic and Antarctic. He has also worked with foreign tourist cruise companies like Quark Expeditions.

The Severny Polyus platform will replace the Russian Arctic expeditions organized on the sea ice since the 1930s. The rapid disappearance of the Arctic sea ice has made it increasingly difficult to organize these expeditions and the last real ice station, the “North Pole -40”, took place in the winter of 2012.

“In order to provide high-quality forecasts, we absolutely need constant data from the central parts of the Arctic. It is very important that researchers can soon obtain this data while staying on board a ship in comfortable conditions and not in a tent on the ice,” the meteorological organization said in a statement.

The Severny Polyus will have 15 laboratories from which researchers can work throughout the year. It will be able to operate in the ice without the aid of an icebreaker and drift autonomously in remote Arctic waters for about two years.

Not everything has gone smoothly since construction began in 2018. There have been technical complications and the cost of construction has increased. The ship was originally expected to cost around 90 million euros, but the price is now thought to exceed 120 million euros.

According to the Admiralty, the forward auxiliary engines are now in place and are being tested, and anchoring, towing and mooring equipment is being installed.

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