MOSCOW (Reuters) - Two Russian companies signed a deal on Thursday to build the world’s most powerful nuclear icebreaker to help boost trade on a northern sea route crucial to forging closer links with Asia.
Atomflot, a subsidiary of Russian nuclear group Rosatom, and the Zvezda shipyard, owned by a consortium led by oil giant Rosneft, said they would work together to build the Lider (Leader) icebreaker.
President Vladimir Putin has said that Arctic shipping routes along Russia’s northern coast could rival the Suez Canal as a short-cut trade route between Europe and Asia.
Rosatom said the icebreaker, fitted with a nuclear power unit, would be able to smash through ice as thick as 4 metres. The vessel, with the propulsion power of 120 megawatts, is scheduled to be constructed in 2027.
Russian government plans envisage the Northern Sea Route, which trims 4,000 nautical miles off the southern alternative via the Suez Canal, exporting 80 million tonnes of cargoes per year by 2024 to Europe and Asia
Russian companies are developing projects for the route in areas including liquefied natural gas, gas condensate, oil, coal and precious metals, among others.
Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Mark Potter