Today, most icebreakers are needed to keep trade routes open where there are either seasonal or permanent ice conditions. While the merchant vessels calling ports in these regions are strengthened for navigation in ice, they are usually not powerful enough to manage the ice by themselves.

For this reason, in the Baltic Sea, the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence Seaway,

When a ship becomes immobilized by ice, the icebreaker has to free it by breaking the ice surrounding the ship and, if necessary, open a safe passage through the ice field. In difficult ice conditions, the icebreaker can also tow the weakest ships.

FACTS: There are few amazing facts about Ice Breakers and Ice!!

  • Unlike the South Pole, which lies over the continent of Antarctica, there is no land beneath the North Pole but more of a floating Arctic ice sheet that expands during colder months and shrinks to half its size in the summer.
  • Each country is allowed to explore potential oil reserves within 200 miles of their coastlines, but in 2007, Russia used a mini-submarine to plant the country’s flag on the floor of the Arctic Ocean in an attempt to claim the region and its natural resources, a move that was rejected by the U.N. as the countries continue to work toward a solution.
  • An early ship designed to operate in icy conditions was a 51-metre (167 ft.) wooden paddle steamer, City Ice Boat No. 1, that was built for the city Philadelphia Vandusen & Birelynin 1837. The ship’s wooden paddles, powered by two 250-horsepower steam engines, were reinforced with iron coverings.

Did you know 30 percent of the world’s untapped oil reserves are located in the Arctic Circle? 

  • The world’s first diesel-electric icebreaker was the 4,330-ton Swedish icebreaker in 1933. At 9,000 hp divided between two propellers in the stern and one propeller in the bow, she remained the most powerful Swedish icebreaker until the commissioning of Oden in 1957.
  • Russia currently operates all existing and functioning nuclear-powered icebreakers.
  • During the steam era, the most powerful pre-war steam-powered icebreakers had a propulsion power of about 10,000 shaft horsepower (7,500 kW).
  • Russia, which remains the sole operator of nuclear-powered icebreakers, is currently building a new 60,000 kW (80,000 hp) icebreakers to replace the agingArktika class. The first vessel of this type is expected to enter service in 2017.
  • The most powerful conventional (non-nuclear) icebreakers in the world, two Polar-class icebreakers operated by the United States Coast Guard, have a combined diesel-electric and mechanical propulsion system that consists of six diesel engines and three gas turbines.



  • Some icebreakers are used to support scientific research in the Arctic and Antarctic. In addition to icebreaking capability, the ships need to have reasonably good open water characteristics for transit to and from the polar regions, facilities and accommodation for the scientific personnel, and cargo capacity for supplying research stations on the shore.
  • Countries such asArgentinaandSouth Africa, which do not require icebreakers in domestic waters, have research icebreakers for carrying out studies in the Polar Regions.
  • As offshore drilling moves to the Arctic seas, icebreaking vessels are needed to supply cargo and equipment to the drilling sites and protect the drill ships and oil platforms from the ice by performance management, which includes, for example, breaking the drifting ice into smaller floes and steering icebergs away from the protected object.
  • In the past, such operations were carried out primarily in North America, but today Arctic offshore drilling and oil production is also going on in various parts of the Russian Arctic.
  • An icebreaker can be designed with attributes to overcome the variance of ice conditions. Built more than 40 years ago, the Polar Star and its sister ship, the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Sea, were built with top-of-the-line design features, including the hull shape, strength, and weight. The rounded hull design of the Polar Star allows the vessel to pivot on its bow and swing the stern to port or starboard, helping facilitate freedom of movement when working under fast or anchored ice conditions.

Another design feature of the Polar Star is the hull’s ice horn. This ice horn is what allows the vessel to continuously break ice up to 6-feet thick and back and ram ice up to 21-feet thick.


Source: Maritime Social Network Sailors Club