Top 10 Biggest Ice Breaker Ships In The World In 2024

The icebreaker ships, moving and navigating through ice-covered waters, require features such as a strengthened hull, an ice-clearing shape, great momentum and the power of a robust engine to push through the frozen land.

Ice breaker ships are of utmost importance in ice-clad regions, wherein waterways need to be made accessible by clearing off the layers of ice.

Here are the top 10 biggest icebreaker ships that rock the world.

10. USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB-11)

Constructed by Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company of Seattle and even though commissioned in 1977, this is one of the world’s most powerful class of non-nuclear icebreaker ships and is still in service. The Polar Sea boasts of a displacement of 13,194 long tons, a length of 399 ft, and the ability to progress through 6 ft of ice at 3 knots.

USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB-11)
Representation Image

It carries a crew of 24 officers, 20 chief petty officers, and other 102 engaged. This icebreaker ship owns four sizable lounges, a library, a gym, and a small ship’s store. It also has the amenities of its own U.S. Post Office, satellite telephones, radio equipment, photo lab, movie library, etc. It serves as a scientific research platform with its onboard laboratories concerning fields of geology, vulcanology, oceanography, sea-ice physics, and other disciplines.

9. RRS Sir David Attenborough

The Royal Research Ship or RSS Sir David Attenborough is an ice-class research vessel for the Antarctic region operated by the British Antarctic Survey. It also serves the purpose of logistic supply in the region. The ship is built to carry two helicopters and has a cargo capacity of 900 cubic meters. The overall length of RRS Sir David Attenborough is 423ft and has a beam of 79ft. It is built with accommodation for 30 crew and 60 research staff.

RRS Sir David Attenborough
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8. Kapitan Dranitsyn

Kapitan Dranitsyn is another Russian icebreaker in the top 10 list. It has been modified as a passenger vessel with a capacity to carry 100 passengers and equipped with public accommodations with spacious lounges, bars, library, and other recreational facilities.

Kapitan Dranitsyn
Representation Image

Its overall length measures approximately 423.3ft with a beam of 87.1ft. It is powered by 6 Wartsila-Sulzer engine producing an overall power of around ~18,000

7. Shirase

Shirase is a Japanese icebreaker ship and one of the four Antarctic icebreakers operated by Japan’s maritime self-defence force. The ship is 452.9ft long with a beam of approx. 92ft. Driven by four diesel-electric motors, it produces a combined power of 22,000 KW. It can carry 8- scientists and 1,100 tons of cargo.

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Shirase icebreaker is equipped with a unique auxiliary icebreaking system, which consists of holes on the bow of the ship through which it sprays water to wet the snow accumulated on the ice, which makes the ice easier to hold and thereby improves the icebreaking effect.

6. Viktor Chernomyrdin

Viktor Chernomyrdin is another Russian icebreaker that was outfitted at the Admiralty Shipyard in Saint Petersburg.

Viktor Chernomyrdin
Representation Image

She is the largest and most powerful diesel-electric-powered icebreaker built in Russia, having four diesel engines of 8,700kw each. With an overall length of 482 ft and a beam of 94 ft, it displaces 22,000 tons with a draft of 28-31ft.

5. Yamal

Yamal is a Russian nuclear class icebreaker ship operated by Atomflot. The name of the ship ‘Yamal’ means End of the Land in Nenets.

Yamal has the capacity to carry one helicopter and several Zodiac boats. It is equipped with amenities such as a large dining room for 100 passengers in one sitting, a library, passenger lounge, auditorium, volleyball court, gymnasium.

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It displaces 23,000 tons of water at a draft of 11m. The ship is 486ft long and 98ft wide and installed with two nuclear reactors to power the ship.

4. Taymyr & Vaygach

These two sister ships take the 4th spot in the list of biggest icebreaker ships.

Taymyr and Vaygach are shallow-draft nuclear-powered icebreakers and were built in 1989 for the Soviet Union in Finland. Their overall length is around 490 ft and with a beam of approx. 92 ft she. Their displacement is around 21,000 tons at the maximum draft, which is 30 ft.

Taymyr & Vaygach
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3. NS 50 Let Pobedy

50 лет Победы in Russian, or 50 Years Since Victory, is currently the biggest icebreaker ship in the world as of 2011. It is a Russian Arktika class nuclear-powered icebreaker and boasts exceptional manoeuvrability and a top speed of 21.4 knots. With a crew of 140 and a displacement of 25840 metric tons, it is 524 ft long and is designed to break through ice up to 2.8 meters thick.

NS 50 Let Pobedy
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Armed with a digital automated control system, the spoon-shaped bow design increases the efficiency of breaking the ice. Modern comforts onboard include an exercise facility, a massage facility, a swimming pool, a restaurant, a library, and a music salon.

2. Sibir

Sibir is another nuclear-powered Russian icebreaker ship that is made under the same project as Arktika. The ship was launched in 2017 and delivered in December 2021. The draft of the vessel is between 8.65 and 10.5 as it operates efficiently both in shallow Arctic river estuaries as well as along the Northern Sea Route.

Representation Image

The overall length of the ship is 569 ft long and has a maximum beam of 112 ft, corresponding to a displacement between 25,540 and 33,530 tonnes.

1. Arktika

Arktika is one of the latest nuclear-powered of Russia under the Project 22220 icebreakers. It is currently the largest and most powerful icebreaker ship in the world.

Arktika is 570 feet long and is around 168 feet tall at its highest point, giving excellent visibility of the surroundings and the ice below the ship the crew.

Representation Image

The ship displaces around 33,000 tons of water with a draft of 10.5 m. Its Nuclear turbo-electric propulsion is capable of producing a maximum speed of 22knots and at least 1.5–2 knots while breaking 9ft thick ice.

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Disclaimer: The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendations on any course of action to be followed by the reader.

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  1. hi, it’s an injustice that there isn’t seamen’s clubs, and the seafarers are not allowed to leave the ship fore some hours in their rest time, throughout some coastal country, even inside the port,,inspit of absence of securuty.problems, too the racism and behaviours to impose some authorities to some nationalities. I compare what happened is some contry like algeria, and holland it’s alarge different like earth and the sky, where is IMO’s intervention.

  2. “was the first surface vessels in history to reach the North Pole in 1994” ???

    “The second Soviet nuclear icebreaker was NS Arktika, the lead ship of the Arktika class. In service since 1975, she was the first surface ship to reach the North Pole, on August 17, 1977.”

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