Botnica arriving in Helsinki on 13 March 2007. The explosion-welded stainless steel ice belt is visible near the waterline.
|Port of registry:||Helsinki, Finland|
|Builder:||Finnyards Ltd., Rauma, Finland|
|Cost:||FIM 303 million|
|Laid down:||2 September 1997|
|Launched:||20 February 1998|
|Completed:||1 June 1998|
|Fate:||Sold to Estonia in 2012|
|Owner:||Port of Tallinn (2012–)|
|Port of registry:||Tallinn, Estonia|
|Acquired:||28 November 2012|
|Type:||Icebreaker, platform supply vessel|
|Length:||96.70 m (317.3 ft)|
|Beam:||24.00 m (78.7 ft)|
|Depth:||11.70 m (38.4 ft)|
|Ice class:||DNV ICE-10 Icebreaker|
|Installed power:||12 × Caterpillar 3512B DITA (12 × 1,258 kW)|
MSV Botnica is a multipurpose offshore support vessel and icebreaker built by Finnyards in Rauma, Finland, in 1998. She was the newest and technically most advanced state-owned icebreaker of Finland until 2012, when she was sold to the Port of Tallinn for 50 million euro. Botnica is used as an escort icebreaker in the Baltic Sea during the winter months, but carries out subsea and offshore construction works worldwide during the open water season.
The maximum overall length of Botnica is 96.70 metres (317.3 ft) and her length between perpendiculars is 77.51 metres (254.3 ft). The hull has a moulded breadth of 24 metres (78.7 ft) and depth of 11.7 metres (38.4 ft). The draught is 7.20 to 7.80 metres (23.6 to 25.6 ft) when the ship is acting as an icebreaker and 8.50 metres (27.9 ft) in offshore supply operations. The gross tonnage of Botnica is 6,370, net tonnage 1,911 and deadweight tonnage 2,890 tons. The light displacement of Botnica, i.e. the weight of the ship without consumables, cargo and crew, is 5,880 tons. Her loaded displacement varies according to the loading condition.
Botnica is classified by Det Norske Veritas with a class notation 1A1 ICE-10 Icebreaker SF HELDK RPS E0 DYNPOS-AUTRO DK(+) HL(1.8). Her ice class, ICE-10 Icebreaker, means that she is designed to break ice up to 1 metre (3.3 ft) thick without limitations to ramming. To improve the ship's maneuverability in ice her hull is wider at the bow than in the stern. These "reamers" increase the width of the ice channel and reduce friction between the hull and ice. In addition the hull has an explosion-welded stainless steel ice belt that reduces friction and protects the steel plates from abrasion at the waterline. The hull is coated with low-friction Inerta 160 epoxy paint.
For offshore construction projects Botnica was built with a 160-ton Hydralift ASA crane, but it was replaced in 2010 with a 150-ton MacGregor crane with active heave compensation. The vessel can also be equipped with an optional 120-ton A-frame. The 1,000-square-metre (10,764 sq ft) aft deck can be used for various purposes and the ship has a 6.5-by-6.5-metre (21 ft × 21 ft) moon pool for underwater operations. In addition the ship has a helipad and accommodation for 45–47 workers in addition to the ship's crew, which is increased from 19 to 23 during the summer season. Since Botnica acts as an escort icebreaker during the winter season, she is also equipped with a 210-ton Aquamaster-Rauma towing winch and stern notch for assisting merchant ships. The oblique bridge maximizes visibility from the starboard side steering position.
Power and propulsion
Botnica is powered by six engine-generator-engine sets consisting of twelve 51.8-litre (3,160-cubic-inch) Caterpillar 3512B V12 high-speed diesel engines, each with an output of 1,258 kW (1,687 hp), driving six ABB generators. The ship was originally designed for six bigger Wärtsilä generating sets, but the lower initial acquisition cost of the Caterpillars resulted in the very unusual engine arrangement. While having a large number of smaller engines increases the flexibility and efficiency of the power system — engines can be started and stopped on demand and the running engines operate at maximum efficiency — the main engines of Botnica require considerably more maintenance hours in comparison to ships with fewer generating sets. The fuel consumption of the main engines at maximum draught is 50 tons of marine diesel oil (MDO) per day at full power, 25 tons at a service speed of 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph), 10–15 tons during dynamic positioning and 4 tons at port.
Designed according to the power plant principle in which the main engines produce power for all shipboard consumers, Botnica has no separate auxiliary generators. However, there is a smaller six-cylinder Caterpillar 3406 as an emergency diesel generator with an output of 230 kW (310 hp).
Botnica was one of the first icebreakers to be equipped with Azipod propulsion, ABB's brand of electric azimuth thrusters developed in Finland. The two 5 MW Azipod VI1600A units considerably improve the maneuverability of the icebreaker — the tactical diameter of the turning circle in open water is less than the overall length of the ship. This is especially useful during escort and assistance operations in difficult ice conditions when the icebreaker has to operate at close proximity to other vessels at low speeds. Together with three 1,150-kW Brunvoll FU-80-LTC-2000 variable-pitch bow thrusters the azimuth thrusters also allow dynamic positioning during offshore operations. The bow thrusters are not used in ice.
The maximum speed of Botnica is 16.5 knots (30.6 km/h; 19.0 mph) in open water and she can maintain a speed of 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) in 80 cm (31 in) ice. The maximum ice thickness in which the vessel is capable of maintaining constant speed is 1.2 m (47 in). Her bollard pull is 117 tons.
Development and construction
The development of the Finnish multipurpose icebreakers began in the mid-1980s when the Finnish National Board of Navigation launched a project to find secondary uses for the new vessels it was planning to build as a replacement for some of the oldest icebreakers. Until then the Finnish icebreakers had been designed solely for escort operations in ice-infested waters and their specialized hull form was not suitable for open water. As a result, the existing icebreakers had an effective operational time of only three to five months per year and spent the summer season moored at Katajanokka in Helsinki. A multipurpose application of the new icebreakers would thus result in a better utilization of the vessels and, assuming they were chartered by a commercial third party during the summer, improve the economics of the state-owned fleet.
However, the concept did not become reality until the early 1990s, when the Norwegian company Ugland Offshore AS (later DSND Offshore AS) became involved in the project to develop and construct multipurpose icebreakers that could be used for offshore operations in the oil fields during the summer months. The concept was developed by the Board of Navigation together with a Finnish consulting engineering company ILS and the contract for the construction of the first vessel with an option for a sister ship was signed with Finnyards in October 1991. The second vessel was ordered in June 1992. The 116-metre (381 ft) ships had large open aft decks similar to platform supply vessels and their two 7,500 kW diesel-electric Aquamaster Z-drive azimuth thrusters provided dynamic positioning capability. The first Finnish multipurpose icebreaker, Fennica, was delivered in 1993 and her sister ship, Nordica, in the following year.
In February 1997 the Finnish National Board of Navigation signed a contract worth FIM 303 million with Finnyards for the construction of a new multipurpose icebreaker. While initially only FIM 280 million was reserved for the new icebreaker, this was later increased by FIM 23 million as the planned vessel proved to be more expensive than expected. While an open call for bids was arranged by the Board of Navigation as dictated by the European Union rules, only Finnyards and Kværner Masa-Yards, another Finnish shipyard, sent in their tenders, and Finnyards won the contract because of shorter delivery time. The new multipurpose icebreaker was to be delivered in March–April 1998. Also designed by ILS, the new vessel resembles the older Finnish multipurpose icebreakers, but is slightly smaller, less powerful and has open-propeller Azipod units instead of Aquamasters with ducted propellers as the latter had proved to be problematic in ice.
The new multipurpose icebreaker was given the name Botnica and delivered to the Finnish National Board of Navigation in June 1998, slightly late of the original schedule. Until the recent delivery of the new icebreaker/tug Ahto, Botnica was the newest icebreaker to be commissioned in Finland.
Like the older Finnish multipurpose icebreakers, Botnica was chartered to DSND Offshore AS for 180 days per year, while in the winter months she was employed as a traditional escort icebreaker in the Baltic Sea. Once icebreaker assistance was no longer needed, the offshore construction equipment was re-installed and the vessel left the Baltic Sea for the summer season. In 2002 Halliburton Offshore and DSND combined their resources and the charter of the multipurpose icebreakers was transferred to the new company, Subsea 7. Until 2004 the company had the exclusive rights to charter the Finnish multipurpose icebreakers.
Following the reorganization of the Finnish Maritime Administration in 2004 the ownership and management of the state-owned vessels was transferred to a newly founded state-owned enterprise, Finstaship. Later a separate company, GDV Maritime AS, was established together with Norwegian partners to handle the global marketing of the Finnish multipurpose icebreakers. Finstaship's share of the new company was 34%. In 2005 Botnica was chartered to TSMarine for offshore operations in the North Sea. The contract specified that the vessel would spend "at least" 560 days in offshore operations between 2005 and 2007. Later she also received charters from other companies, but the particularly poor season in 2008–2009 left Botnica laid up for months and forced Finstaship to reduce costs and even consider laying off some employees. She was also not used for icebreaking during the particularly mild winters in the late 2000s.
In 2010 Arctia Shipping Oy, a state-owned limited company, took over the operations of Finstaship. The ownership and management of the Finnish multipurpose icebreakers was transferred to a subsidiary company, Arctia Offshore Oy. Botnica was not contracted for icebreaking during the winter season of 2010, and having been left without a charter for offshore work, she was laid up in Trieste, Italy. While during the particularly harsh winter of 2011 Botnica was again employed as an icebreaker in the Baltic Sea, her icebreaking contract was not renewed for the 2012 season — instead the Finnish Transport Agency decided to charter Zeus, a small icebreaking anchor handling tug supply vessel (AHTS) owned by the Finnish towing and salvage company Alfons Håkans, until 2016. The agency also entered a similar agreement with a large Swedish icebreaker.
On 24 October 2012, the Port of Tallinn purchased Botnica for 50 million euro to replace the 1963-built Tarmo. According to Arctia Shipping, the newest state-owned icebreaker was sold because the company has been unable to find profitable long-term charters for the multipurpose vessel. Botnica changed her port of registry to Estonia on 28 November 2012.
In the early 2000s the managing director Kyösti Vesterinen and several other high-ranking members of the Finnish Maritime Administration were caught in a bribery scandal when it was found out that DSND Offshore, the charterer of the Finnish multipurpose icebreakers, had offered them several private trips around the world. At the same time the offshore company, which had failed to make payments for the charters in time, was forgiven 153,000 euros of penalty interests. As a result, Vesterinen and two other officials were found guilty for corruption and as a result lost their positions, were given suspended sentences of four to ten months and had to pay back the unlawfully obtained benefits. The incident ended the co-operation between DSND and the Finnish Maritime Administration and left many people suspicious about the profitability of the multipurpose icebreakers.
In December 2003 the Finnish-Swedish ice class of Botnica was unexpectedly downgraded from 1A Super to III, the lowest possible ice class which is mainly used for barges and other vessels unsuitable for navigation in ice. Since the icebreaker is built to DNV's ICE-10 ice class which far exceeds the requirements for the highest Finnish-Swedish ice class, this was not due to any technical or structural issue, but a problem with the ship's paperwork. Botnica operates at different draughts depending on her mission, and when returning to Finland from abroad her true main dimensions were found out to be different from those stated in the ship's documentation. As a result, the maritime inspector of the Finnish Maritime Administration had no other choice but to downgrade the ship's ice classification to the lowest possible ice class. The missing documents were delivered and the correct ice class was restored shortly afterwards.
After Botnica had been purchased by the Port of Tallinn, the Estonian state-owned company became the center of a bribery scandal involving the company's top executives. In February 2016, the parliamentary committee of investigation decided to open a criminal case after suspecting that the evaluation of the Finnish icebreaker prior to acquisition had been incorrect and biased, and as a result the Port of Tallinn purchased the vessel for 50 million euro while a more realistic price for the 14-year-old icebreaker would have been 30 to 35 million euro. However, until now no evidence has been shown that anyone had obtained any illegal benefit from the mentioned deal whatsoever, and it still appears that the price of the icebreaker was correspondent to the healthy market conditions of the year 2012.
The state-owned shipping company Arctia Shipping Oy and its predecessors have been heavily criticized over the years for the financial losses from the offshore business. Due to design compromises the Finnish multipurpose icebreakers are unable to compete with purpose-built platform supply vessels — the open-water performance of the spoon-shaped bow is very poor due to slamming. As a result, the ships have been left without contracts and have spent long periods of time in foreign ports even during the Finnish winter navigation season, forcing the Finnish Government to hire icebreakers from the commercial market to keep the ports open. However, according to an internal memorandum of the Finnish Maritime Administration, the offshore business, while not profitable, has covered at least some of the expenses from icebreaking during the winter seasons in the late 1990s, resulting in lower overall operating costs for the multipurpose icebreakers than for traditional icebreakers.
The Finnish multipurpose icebreakers, particularly Botnica, have also been criticized for their lower icebreaking capability when compared to traditional icebreakers from the 1970s and 1980s despite the advantages of the azimuth thrusters. However, while Botnica is as wide as the older icebreakers, she has only two thirds of the propulsion power, and for this reason she has been described as "underpowered" by her crew. In addition there have been problems such as oil leaks with the early Azipod units and the twelve high-speed engines with 144 cylinders have been described as "an engineer's nightmare".
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