The Estonian icebreaker MSV Botnica is heading for the waters off of the Port of Sillamäe, where the German freighter Neuland is currently stuck in ice.
The Botnica is scheduled to sail from Paljassaare Harbour this afternoon and reach the Sillamäe area aroud midnight to help the stranded freighter, Estonian Maritime Administration spokesperson Priit Põiklik told BNS.
The icebreaker is to sail from Paljassaare with up to 100,000 liters of fuel on board, which translates to about a four-day supply while performing icebreaking work.
The Neuland became stuck in ice shortly after departing from the Port of Sillamäe.
After freeing the German vessel, the Botnica will conduct ice reconnaissance work in the Sillamäe-Kunda area to inform ships by radio and provide guidance on entering and exiting the port if necessary.
According to Põiklik, the Gulf of Finland has become icebound and packed ice has built up primarily in the area near Sillamäe.
Effective March 1, the Estonian Maritime Administration will require all ships to enter or exit the Port of Sillamäe to be classified at least a 1D according to the Lloyd's Register for Shipping or equivalent according to other classification systems as well as a main engine power of at least 1,200 kilowatts.
Last winter, icebreaking was only conducted over a few days in the Gulf of Finland, when currents and winds carried packed ice into the Sillamäe area and nine ships had to be helped through the ice.
Under a contract for the 20120-20200 period awarded via public procurement tender, the Estonian government pays €4.7 million in charter fees and a standby charge for four winter months annually for the services of the Botnica, a multipurpose vessel belonging to Port of Tallinn subsidiary TS Shipping. During the icebreaking season, an additional fuel charge for an average of 30,000 liters of fuel per day is applied.
The 2018 state budget has earmarked €6.4 million for icebreaking operations. The Estonian Maritime Administration believes, however, that the amount of money actually needed will be bigger.
Estonia has a total of four vessels at its disposal for the carrying out of icebreaking operations. Two of them, the Tarmo and the EVA-316 belong to the state; the former is a standby icebreaker for the Gulf of Finland, while the latter is the primary icebreaker on the Gulf of Riga. The tug Protector, owned by AS Alfons Hakans, has been chartered for the season as a standby vessel in the Gulf of Riga.
Editor: Aili Vahtla