Finland’s geographical location proves to be quite a challenge for vessels wanting to enter its harbor facilities during the winter season. Ice-breakers thus form an integral component of the nation’s maritime affairs, facilitating uninterrupted shipping activities.
The history of sophisticated and iconic ice-breaking vessels in Finland can be traced to as early as the mid-20th century with the Karhu classification of ice-breakers gaining immense popularity in the maritime world for their operational efficiency. However it was the Otso ice-breaker ship that revolutionized the concept of ice-breaking in Finland by combining operational efficiency with a high level of fuel consumption sustainability.
The Otso ice-breaking vessel was commissioned by the Finnish maritime authority during the early 1980s so as to function as a suitable substitute for the Karhu ice-breaking ships. Otso was the first vessel in its class – also titled Otso – and was put into operation in the year 1986. Built by the noted Finnish shipbuilders, Wartsila Helsinki Shipyard, the vessel’s constructional cost totalled over two billion Finnish Mark (FIM).
Otso in Finnish refers to ‘bear’, an animal which holds a place of pride in the Finnish culture and tradition. Just like the uniqueness of its name, the vessel’s technical features are also equally singular. These technical high-points can be enumerated as follows:
- Complete revamping of the electrical systems by utilising an Alternate Current (AC) system instead of a Direct Current (DC) system
- Thorough modification of the conventional propelling systems to a cyclo-converter system to help better propulsion while under operation
- Fortified hull system to prevent erosion whilst carrying out ice-breaking operations
- Strategic positioning of the fuelling tanks mid-ship to prevent damage to the marine ecology in case of any accidents
- Sleek structure with smaller dimensions as compared to earlier ice-breaker ships, to enhance its ice-breaking capacitance
- Automated navigational systems that have considerably reduced the crewing personnel aboard the vessel
Otso measures almost 100 metres lengthwise with a width of slightly over 24 metres and a draught of eight metres. Otso’s speed however forms the noteworthy element in its technical specifications allowing the vessel to carry out deeper ice-breaking operations as compared to the earlier models of the ice-breaker vessels.
The Finnish maritime authority launched the operations of the second ice-breaking vessel under the Otso classification, a year after Otso was put into operation. Christened as the Kontio, the ice-breaker ship had similar specifications to the Otso. Presently, the Otso and the Kontio are the primary ice-breaker ships assigned to carry out extensive operations near the major Finnish harbors.