By Daria Manina and Roman Mamonov
Russia has made another step towards Arctic exploration. The country’s Ministry of Industry and Trade has announced tender for building a navy and creating an infrastructure required for hydrocarbon exploration in the Arctic Ocean. The aim is to build surface effect ships and screen planes.
Russia’s energy giants, Gazprom and Rosneft, have been licensed to explore the Arctic shelf, while Sovkomflot, the country’s leading petroleum and LNG shipping company, is dealing with the construction of ships. The tender was announced by the ministry to design brand new types of watercraft that could be used in the Arctic: speedy river and sea catamarans and surface effect ships. These kinds of ships better suit the Arctic environment and can even replace aircraft, the deputy head of the Aerokhod design company Yuri Shamanin told the VoR…
“These ships can stay in the most remote Arctic areas longer than aircraft. Big ships simply cannot be used in icy waters and at moderate depths. Surface effect ships have long proved their reliability in the Arctic.”
Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade also suggested building buoyant facilities which could be used to produce oil and store petroleum products, and also rebuild ground screen planes, for they can operate more effectively and land on any surface. They, however, do have a drawback: increased fuel consumption.
The deputy director of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute Vladimir Sokolov welcomes the project but thinks that existing watercraft models cannot be used to their maximum efficiency in the Far North.
“Such kind of platforms can be used for landing in yet unexplored areas of the Far North and for unloading large-capacity vessels. I cannot, however, comment on their use for research purposes, because they have a disturbing impact on the environment and are power-hungry, while saving on fuel is a must when working in the Arctic.”
Nevertheless, considering strategic importance of the Arctic exploration and the fact that projects being implemented on the shelf are of great interest to western investors, there will hardly be any difficulties in financing the construction of new generation watercraft. So, chances are quite high for a screen plane to turn into a real vehicle, while surface effect ships could one day be used to build a strong Arctic navy.