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Russia to privatize its nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet

04.10.2011 16:22  |   The Voice of Russia

Under a presidential decree, Dmitry Medvedev has excluded the Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet and docks used for its maintenance from the list of banned facilities for privatization. The document will pave the way for privatizing the state unitary enterprise, “Rosatomflot”, which is the owner and operator of the fleet. At the same time, the government will retain the controlling share. It has been planned that “Rosatomflot” will remain under the management of the “Rosatom” Corporation, which is handling exploitation and safety of nuclear reactors. In these circumstances, affirmations that nuclear-powered icebreaker might fall into the hands of a mad oligarch are groundless.    

Russia is the only country in the world that possesses a nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet. It has six icebreakers, a nuclear-powered light carrier and five floating bases that provide technical services. Lately, interest in these ships has significantly grown. First and foremost, this is linked to the exploration of huge oil and gas deposits in the Arctic shelf. Secondly, foreign companies have shown keen interest in the northern shipping route that makes it possible to deliver cargo from Europe to the Asia-Pacific region and back in a short period of time compared to the use of the southern route that passes through the Suez Canal. However, the northern route will be advantageous only if it is used throughout the year. To this end, there is a need to modernize the nuclear-powered icebreakers and the coastal infrastructure and the construction of new ships, says director of Public and Political Studies Centre, Vladimir Evseev.

“The problem is that the icebreaker fleet, which is very expensive, needs huge investment. The nuclear reactors on board the icebreakers need nuclear fuel that has to be utilized after using. This also requires a large sum of money. Moreover, huge buildings and special docks have to be built to provide services. In short, there are many problems. In view of this, privatization is a good move at a time when the government retains the controlling stock. Privatization also allows attracting private investors who will be benefitted by the exploitation of the northern shipping route,” says Vladimir Evseev.

Experts insist that the privatizations will pave the way for using commercial credits actively. However, in any case, the government will retain the controlling stock. Meanwhile, the transportation of foreign cargo will promote international cooperation, emphasizes Vladimir Evseev.

“If we wish to implement this project seriously, we will have to take loans or attract foreign investors. No one should rely only on the Russian companies’ demand because foreign companies will assure the basic cargo transport. But they can implement the project in the interests of European, Chinese or Japanese companies, which transport the largest share of cargo and assure highest profit,” Vladimir Evseev said.

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