The Russian government must develop and adopt a programme to modernise the country's fleet of ice-breakers. According to Rosbalt's correspondent, this was announced to journalists yesterday by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on board the nuclear ice-breaker Yamal in the Murmansk Region. Kasyanov arrived in Murmansk yesterday on a two-day working visit.
'The current capacity of the ice-breaking fleet meets all the requirements of shipping along the northern sea lane,' said Kasyanov. However, he added that the modernisation programme needs to be drawn up quickly in order to be financed from the 2004 budget.
Kasyanov reminded journalists that Russia currently has five nuclear ice-breakers. But over the next six years they may be withdrawn from service as their reactors become exhausted. According to the Prime Minister, the modernisation of one ice-breaker would cost the government about 25% of the outlay required to build a new vessel. Nevertheless, Kasyanov expressed the hope that plans for designing and building a new generation of Russian ice-breakers will be set out during his visit to Murmansk.
The question of modernizing the Russian ice-breaking fleet was first discussed in April 2002 in Arkhangelsk at a meeting devoted to ensuring that Russian ports and the northern sea lane are kept free of ice. The meeting was chaired by Russian First Deputy Transport Minister Vyacheslav Rukshi. The assets of Russia's ice-breaking fleet are managed by a number of shipping companies, although the vessels are loaned out to Marine Port Authorities, which are responsibility for their day-to-day management.