First icebreaker hard at work in Gulf of Riga

The EVA-316 in the port of Pärnu. Source: ERR

The Maritime Administration's EVA-316 multi-purpose vessel has already helped 24 ships this season getting through coastal ice, with the lasting cold weather likely to further increase the need for its services.

The EVA-316 is built as an icebreaker as well as an anti-pollution and rescue ship, and after less busy ice seasons in previous years is proving to be an asset to the Maritime Administration.

The situation is expected to get worse in terms of sea ice, ERR's Aktuaalne kaamera newscast reported on Sunday. Though icebreakers Botnica and Tarmo haven't yet been in use this season, this could soon change.

According to Martin Kaarjärv, who coordinates the work of the icebreakers at the Maritime Administration, EVA-316 currently has plenty to do in the Gulf of Riga, as the coastal ice there has reached the island of Kihnu, some 20 nautical miles (37 km) before the port of Pärnu.

"The first five miles on the way from Kihnu are easier, the ice there is 5 to 7 cm thick and there are moving ice floes," Mr Kaarjärv told ERR. "But on from there it gets a little more difficult. The ice is 10 to 20 cm thick, and some of the ice there is piling up."

This means that icebreakers are certain to be needed and at the moment meeting incoming ships some 15 miles before the port. More powerful ships meanwhile can still make it into port on their own, Mr Kaarjärv added.

As long as winds are relatively low, ships can keep straight along the channel cut into the ice, he explained. "But the wind will likely rise over the next few days. It isn't getting any easier."

Estonia's two icebreakers, Botnica and Tarmo, will be put to work once the ice reaches the ports along the coast of the Gulf of Finland, Mr Kaarjärv said.

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Editor: Dario Cavegn

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