AT SEA, 70 23,5’N / 163 34,3'E, Northern Sea Route
Foggy, moderate breeze (E force 4), +2 degrees, 996 mbar
Morning showed us why the Northern Sea Route (as the many areas also at Baltic) is sometimes very difficult. When there is ice cover, the temperature difference between ice and air is small but during open sea time, it’s usually the opposite. It means that there is a lot of fog around - and it’s thick. It is the same whether it is daylight or nighttime and this is the reason why the navigation around here is dangerous. The wise use of radar is crucial because otherwise, you have a good possibility to have the same result as one famous passenger ship many years ago. Icebergs are crawling between the waves and are almost undetectable for radar, which makes navigation challenging. If visibility is the same or less than your ship’s length the time to avoid floating ice is rather small or negative.
With this in mind, we have been very lucky that we chose good bridge equipment. During the morning we discovered that radars are performing well detecting the ice. Also, navigation of the ship is quite easy with comparable good manoeuvring capabilities. This will certainly be our benefit in the long run.
At 1 pm ship's time, we reached the meeting point with the nuclear ice breaker. Or at least that was what the radar and equipment showed us. It was already late evening once we had first visual sight of Vaygach. The very dense fog remained the whole day. Sailing through the ice area was performed by following the ice breaker on a distance of 0.5 nautical miles. It equals 926 meters which is about one ship length more than our crash stop distance. So, if there would have been any problem which would have caused the Vaygach to stop, our reaction time must be fast. However, this distance is much more than what we have in the Baltic Sea during ice breaker assistance where we are talking about tens of meters instead of hundreds of meters. To avoid a collision you can either stop the vessel or turn but on an area covered with ice, you must choose wisely. The tactics for this are a bit different in ice channel, open water or sea full of ice floes.
Jussi Vaahtikari is Master of m/v Haaga. He has participated to the construction of Viikki and Haaga since the design phase and he was also part of the supervision team in China during the construction phase.
ESL Shipping is the leading shipping company transporting dry bulk cargo in the Baltic Sea. It secures raw material transportation for the industry and energy production around the year, even under difficult weather conditions. Its key customer segments include the steel, energy and mining industries.