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Dozens of ships stuck in Arctic as ice freezes early

November 23, 2021

By Paul Homewood

h/t Philip Bratby


More than two dozen cargo vessels are stuck in Russia’s Arctic ice, waiting for ice-breakers to come to their rescue, after an inaccurate forecast from the country’s Met Office.

Maritime traffic in the Northern Sea Route has been on the rise in recent years as rapidly warming winters reduce ice cover, and Russia invests in its Arctic ports in preparation for a further boom.

But this year several segments of the Northern Sea Route froze up about a fortnight earlier than usual, catching many ships unawares.

Alexei Likhachyov – director general of Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy company Rosatom, which manages the country’s nuclear-power fleet of ice-breakers – said on Monday that the ships included vessels sailing under the flags of Hong Kong and Marshall Islands.

He blamed the Russian Met office for a forecast that failed to predict the early ice, in comments to local media.

Companies shipping goods via the Northern Sea Route typically book a Rosatom ice-breaker in advance to accompany their vessel, but did not this time as they were assured of good weather.

Some of the vessels sailing from Murmansk in Russia’s north-west to Chukotka in the north-east have been stranded for more than a week, endangering the deliveries of essential goods to remote towns on Russia’s Arctic coast.

Viktor Gil, captain of The Mikhail Somov, one of the ships stranded along the Northern Sea Route, told the Tass news agency that the situation was “quite dire”.

“The ice is up to one and a half metres thick here,” he said, but added that the crew had supplies enough to last until an ice-breaker reaches them in around a week.

Mr Likhachyov said ice-breakers were already on their way to the stranded vessels, but warned that the rescue operation could take some time as the ships are scattered across the sea.

Indeed, Arctic sea ice extent is at its highest since at least 2016 now, having finished the summer at its highest since 2014:


It is also much thicker than last year:

  1. Mad Mike permalink
    November 23, 2021 9:49 am

    Add this to the record cold summer in the Antarctic and you might wonder what’s going on with the climate. I’ve just stocked up with some more logs for my wood burner but I know nothing.

  2. magesox permalink
    November 23, 2021 10:02 am

    You may be Mad, Mike but you know it’ll be cheaper than a heat pump!

    • November 23, 2021 11:54 am

      and actually keep him warm!

      • Gerry, England permalink
        November 23, 2021 1:14 pm

        I was sawing up another batch of wood for the fire at the weekend. And then the fun of wheeling out the splitter to take then down a size more. Quite therapeutic as you watch the blade cleave the wood apart.

      • November 23, 2021 7:49 pm

        What sort of splitter do you use?

  3. Beagle permalink
    November 23, 2021 10:16 am

    Amazing the power of a few ppm of CO2

  4. 2hmp permalink
    November 23, 2021 10:32 am

    You may well need those logs as one long range weather forecast is for a little ice age winter.

  5. Joe Public permalink
    November 23, 2021 10:35 am

    “Maritime traffic in the Northern Sea Route has been on the rise in recent years as rapidly warming winters reduce ice cover, and Russia invests in its Arctic ports in preparation for a further boom.”

    The Torygraph ‘forgot’ to report Russia also invests in icebreakers because it, like the USA, Canada, China & Australia realises there’ll be needs for them for decades to come.

  6. November 23, 2021 11:44 am

    Arctic sea ice has hidden its own decline, for a while at least. Blip or trend? Not much has changed in recent years and solar cycle 25 still hasn’t got going to any significant extent, which could be a factor.

  7. mjr permalink
    November 23, 2021 11:48 am

    On Quest they currently advertise a Discovery + programme first broadcast a year ago and i am sure that the voice over mentions that the ice was the worst for 20 years

  8. Rob Harland permalink
    November 23, 2021 1:03 pm

    I googled “BBC Arctic” and sure enough there was no BBC report on the Arctic freezing.

    There was however this:

    BBC and Met Office ‘at war’ over white Christmas with polar opposite forecasts – Mirror Online
    DTN, or Data Transmission Network, is a company that offers data analysis, meteorological consulting and weather forecasting.. The Met Office is hoping it will win out after splurging £1.2billion …

    So we are in for either a mild Christmas or a freezing Christmas – I am sure whichever one it is will be blamed on the “Global Warming Emergency”

  9. It doesn't add up... permalink
    November 23, 2021 8:24 pm

    You can plot the vessel locations from the data here:

    The icebreakers are НОВОРОССИЙСК – Novorossisk (diesel), ТАЙМЫР – IMO 8417481 – Taimyr – (nuclear), ЯМАЛ – Yamal – (nuclear) and ВАЙГАЧ – Vaigach – (nuclear).

    Arc 7 class LNG ships, plying out of Sabetta are GEORGIY USHAKOV (not to be confused with ГЕОРГИЙ УШАКОВ which is a cargo ship of the same name – IMO numbers help distinguish), GEORGIY BRUSILOV, RUDOLF SAMOYLOVICH (now slowed as it makes it way through thicker ice on its way back from China), BORIS DAVYDOV (making good progress through the strait south of Bolshevik Island between the Lapetev and Kara seas), and the VLADIMIR RUSANOV which has been stuck in the ice for some time.

    Ships in ports are not shown. There are fewer vessels stuck in open ocean than a few days ago. BORIS VILKITSKY (departed Incheon, Korea on 11th), appears to be aiming for the Arctic route.

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