In the last decade, there has been substantial growth in the construction of icebreakers for use in Arctic waters, believed to have enormous oil and gas resources. Icebreakers can also help create a new, shorter voyage through the ice-choked North West Passage.
ABB, with a history of more than 100 years of innovation in Canada, is now bringing cutting-edge icebreaker technology to Canadian Coast Guard ships.
ABB will modernize ten Canadian Coast Guard ships. Design and work supply will begin immediately, starting with CCGS Pierre Radisson, which will be completed in July 2017. CCGS Ann Harvey, CCGS Des Groseilliers, CCGS William Alexander and CCGS Martha L. Black will be completed next year, followed by CCGS Henry Larsen and CCGS Edward Cornwallis in 2019. CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier, CCGS George R. Pearkes and CCGS Amundsen will be upgraded by 2020.
The upgrade of the equipment will extend the lifespan of the vessels by 20 years, when combined with ABB’s Remote Diagnostic Service for maritime operations.
Canada’s Coast Guard provides icebreaking services for commercial ships, ferries and fishing vessels in ice-covered Canadian waters. Such services include vessel escorts, harbor breakouts, maintaining shipping routes and providing ice information services. It has a fleet of 15 icebreakers, ranging from light to heavy.
Large icebreakers can be more than nine storeies high and 420 feet long, with crews of up to 150 people, who are trained for adverse situations. Despite advances in shipbuilding and navigation technology, navigating through the Arctic can still be dangerous. In 2015, two Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers rescued an American freighter locked in ice for several days on southern Lake Erie. In February, a convoy of Russian ships, including an icebreaker, were trapped in the Arctic after a sudden change of weather, and could not return to port for more than a month.
Most of the icebreaking work by commercial and research vehicles happens during the summer, when ice is at its thinnest and daylight lasts 24 hours. Canada’s Medium Icebreakers and High Endurance Multi Task Vessels typically work year-round in Canadian waters, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes.. They are engaged in search and rescue, maritime navigational aids, ice breaking, oceanographic studies, conservation, and patrol and protection of Canada’s coast line.
Higher demand for icebreaking vessels in the Arctic region has been driven largely by market forces. It is estimated that 20 percent of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas resources can be found in Arctic waters. With so much potential, demand for icebreaking vessels, both by private companies and coast guards of countries in the region, is likely to remain strong. To ease concerns over the ecological impacts of operations, many countries are increasingly opting for LNG-powered ships.
ABB’s work goes beyond icebreaking. With its integrated solutions, ABB has enabled digital connectivity for over 650 ships worldwide. ABB integrates sensors and software into a ship’s critical equipment and control systems to enable real-time monitoring of how the ship is performing. The data gathered provides insights and timely support to increase efficiency and pre-empt operational issues. ABB has a long history of success in marine technology, having delivered the first electric propulsion system to an icebreaker in 1939. In 1990, ABB launched Azipod, a gearless steerable propulsion system specifically developed for icebreaking vessels. Today, this is a core business area for the company.