Tanker traffic to and from Russian terminals in the eastern Baltic is increasing. Similar change is likely to occur in the Okhotsk Sea, Russian western Arctic and possibly also in the White Sea. Large oil tankers navigating in the Baltic, Okhotsk Sea and in the western Russian Arctic show a hull shape that is not especially suitable for ice breaking. And hull rupture would be catastrophic.
The Baltic Icebreaker Management is making every effort to increase awareness for winter operations and ice conditions, and also awareness about ice service products. However, Finnish and Swedish icebreaker services have observed that the crews of ice strengthened vessels do not have the necessary experience for winter navigation. The suggestion is to navigate using ice charts and ice forecasts. That will reduce the risk of human error in interpreting ice conditions and selecting a route through arctic waters.
The SAFEWIN project aims to develop an efficient ice compression and ice dynamics forecasting system. This system will be particularly efficient in case of large oil tankers navigating in arctic seas.
Furthermore, the SAFEWIN project aims to understand the relationship between ship structures and the risk of compressive ice damages. This knowledge will be used to redesign part of the structure and to achieve the best possible resistance to damage.
The main objectives of SAFEWIN are:
- Develop methods to predict the ice compression operationally. This objective is related to sea ice dynamics models that have been developed and are further developed to be suited for the operational task;
- Develop quantities that can be applied to describing the ship progress and loading in ice and that can be obtained from ice dynamics predictions;
- Verify the accuracy and applicability of the ship-scale quantities obtained from meso-scale ice dynamics models;
- Develop an operational procedure to describe ice compression to be broadcasted to shipping;
- Apply the developed ice compression forecasting procedure to arctic waters for oil exploration/production facilities.
The project is dived into small sub projects, as follows:
- Project management;
- Observation campaign;
- Forecasting methods;
- Compression in ship-scale;
- Operative forecasting;
- Risk control;
- Ice management;
SAFEWIN will create a scientific basis for operative forecasting of ice motion and compression in ice. The final reporting will make sure that all the scientific elements of the project are disseminated to the public in the form of laboratory reports, scientific journals and maritime magazines. The knowledge on the maritime risks involved in ice navigation, the means to decrease the risks and interaction between the risk and probability of damage level with the ice conditions and operational procedures must also be documented and disseminated to maritime authorities and ice services.
Navigating icy waterways
Dynamic ice and compressive ice forces are two of the most important hazards that ships face when navigating in ice. An EU-funded project developed a forecasting system for better route planning and thus enhanced ship safety.
Backed with EU funding, the 'Safety of winter navigation in dynamic ice' (SAFEWIN) project is dedicated to developing an efficient ice compression and ice dynamics forecasting system that will be particularly appropriate for conditions in the Baltic Sea, the Okhotsk Sea and the western Russian Arctic. The biggest damage to ship structure occurs in moving ice cover, where large compressive forces can act on the ship hull and possibly even lead to hull rupture. As such, a better understanding of the behaviour of ships in this kind of ice is required, and ships are in need of a warning for nearby compressive regions.
Project work commenced with intensive observations initially focused on the Gulf of Finland, and then the Bothnian Bay. To date, observations have also been carried out in the Gulf of Riga. Visual observations of sea ice compression were made on board icebreakers and merchant vessels, and ice cover movements were studied with drift buoys, satellite images and captured radar images. SAFEWIN partners conducted two winter field campaigns, producing measurements such as ice motion detection, ice thickness and ice pressure. These were very successful in terms of outlining severe compression events that can seriously disrupt shipping operations.
Other actions have succeeded in improving on ice models - ice compression has been added to these as a new prognostic variable. In addition, first hind cast simulations, including ice stresses, have been performed.
SAFEWIN efforts allowed development of an operative forecasting system for dynamic and especially compressive ice. The forecasting system includes a description of the compression (magnitude and direction) in terms of quantities that can be applied in ship operations. The system is integrated into the existing IBnet system, a distributed traffic information system for icebreakers and will operate as a decision support tool for ice navigation. This may have a large impact on the probability of ships getting stuck in ice and thus decrease the risks remarkably.
The use of such forecasts and systems will help merchant vessels better plan their routes for maximum safety, and assisting icebreakers will be able to determine waypoints for merchant ship routes on the basis of the safest and most efficient passage of ships.