After a few years’ break this year there’s quite a hard ice situation in the Northern Baltic. For people ashore the cold and ice are welcome, but for ships hard winter conditions mean many difficulties. One of our captains, Thord Vaenerberg tells about winter operations at sea:
“In the winter everything becomes more difficult: the ice makes it difficult for the ship to move and the slippery decks are a challenge for people. There’s more work to do and operations take more time. Besides removing of ice and snow, cleaning of the hold is challenging. Although it might be -20 degrees outside, the hold needs to be washed and dried. To do this, the hold needs to be warmed up and the hatches must be closed, but on the other hand moisture should be evaporated out. Sometimes this seems impossible, but so far we have always succeeded. Finns are professionals in winter navigation, and this is clearly our strength at Meriaura”, says Thord.
In wintertime, ships are also dependent on the icebreakers’ timetables. “We have been lucky with m/v ‘Eeva VG’, we have had to wait for icebreaking assistance only for some moments. Arriving at the pier is the slowest part. In summertime, taking the ship alongside the pier takes about 5 to 10 minutes. In ice it will easily take 2 – 3 hours to drive away the ice between the quay and the ship. Sometimes tug assistance is needed.”
Risks grow in heavy ice. Ships are often forced to drive in a convoy because the lane closes quickly. Collisions can happen more easily. A good example of that was Aura’s collision last week. Dealing with facing traffic in the narrow lane is also very challenging.
All in all The Captain is very happy with his EcoCoaster vessel even during wintertime. An additional power-take-in-system improves the ship’s mobility in ice significantly. He is also grateful for the good cooperation with the Finnish icebreakers. But luckily spring is almost here.