As Offshore Oil Prospects Expand, Putin Calls for More High-Tech Ships

January 11, 2013

RIA Novosti reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called for his country to boost its production and design of high-tech ships, in comments at a naming ceremony for a new oil-rig supply vessel with icebreaking capability.

“We already have the world’s largest nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet,” Putin said. “Let’s work on building an entire range of [high-tech] vessels.”

The Vitus Bering supply ship, which will operate on a long-term loan to a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, was built by Finland’s Arctech Helsinki Shipyard and Russia’s Vyborg Shipyard JSC, and accepted for operation in December last year. Putin said he was pleased to note that Russian shipbuilders made 90 percent of the vessel’s hull.

The ship is the first in a series of auxiliary vessels with icebreaking capability designed to supply offshore oil platforms in Russia’s northern territorial waters. It was not clear how many vessels the series would include, but construction of a second ship is expected to start this year.

The development of a large fleet of vessels capable of operating in heavy sea ice is imperative for the successful exploration not only of Russia’s existing oil and gas reserves, but also its prospective reserves in the Arctic.

According to shipbuilders, the auxiliary vessels will feature an advanced propulsion system, a special hull design to operate astern – simply put, to move backwards – in ice conditions and a global positioning system. They can safely operate in ice 1.7 meters (5.5 feet) thick.

Exxon Neftegas Limited will use the Vitus Bering, owned by Russia’s state-controlled Sovcomflot shipping company, for work on the Sakhalin-I oil-and-gas project off Russia’s Pacific Coast.

After Thursday’s ceremony, Exxon Neftegas Limited president James Taylor estimated that oil production at Sakhalin-1 in 2013 will be about 7 million tons, close to last year’s figure.

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