A Finnish multi-purpose ice-breaker that spent much of last weekend in Tacoma and at the entrance to Quartermaster Harbor off Vashon Island departed early Monday for Dutch Harbor in Alaska.
After a brief, early morning stop in Seattle, the MSV Nordica headed out the Strait of Juan de Fuca for the 49th State.
The bulbous-bowed, 381-foot-long vessel is contracted to Shell Offshore by Arctia Offshore Ltd. for use in exploration activities in the seas off the north coast of Alaska. The Nordica and its sister ship Fennica are part of a flotilla of ice-breakers, anchor-handling ships, supply vessels and tankers that Shell plans to use to explore for oil offshore.
The primary job of the Nordica and the Fennica is “ice management,” according to Shell. Those vessels are used to steer ice floes away from Shell’s two drilling ships exploring for oil.
After a trouble-plagued 2012 drilling season, Shell won’t be drilling in the Arctic in the summer of 2013, although it may be conducting geotechnical surveys and other work in the area.
Both Shell drilling rigs are in Asia undergoing repairs. One rig, the Kulluk, ran aground on an uninhabited Alaska island after the line connecting it to its towing vessel failed in rough seas in December. The drilling rig was being towed to Seattle for maintenance and upgrades. The vessel towing the Kulluk, the Aiviq, had visited Tacoma earlier last summer. All four of the Aiviq’s engines failed during the tow because of contaminated fuel.
The other shell drilling rig, the Northern Discovery, suffered a fire and needed mechanical improvements.
The Nordica was designed to be used during the winter months to keep Finnish harbors from clogging with ice, and during the summer it was offered for charter for other work. The vessel in recent years has supported construction of wind turbines in the North Sea.
The Nordica, built by Finland’s Aker Shipyard in 1994, visited Portland last week. The vessel is equipped with propellers that swivel for extra maneuverability. Its bow is built with a strengthening belt of stainless steel to shield the regular steel in the hull from being eroded.