The North Pole, the world’s first ice-resistant platform, sails off
© Photo courtesy of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute

The North Pole, the world’s first ice-resistant platform, sails off

A new research vessel – the ice-resistant self-propelled platform (ISP) North Pole, has departed on its maiden voyage. The flag raising ceremony was held on the eve of its departure on September 1. It was attended by Head of Roshydromet (Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring) Igor Shumakov and Director of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) Alexander Makarov.  

“The expedition will start in Murmansk in mid-September and will head west towards the New Siberian Islands. The platform is scheduled to arrive at the ice zone in about two weeks.

Thus, in early October, the 41st Arctic drifting polar station will begin operations. A science camp will be set up around the vessel. Scientists will carry out some research on board – there are 15 research laboratories on the platform,” said Alexander Makarov.

The North Pole ISP is designed for year-round research in the high latitudes of the Arctic Ocean. The ship will proceed to the drift location through water or thin ice; it will then be frozen into the ice and will drift with the ice mass for up to two years.

According to Mr Shumakov, this impressive endeavor will leave its mark in the history of polar science and the Russian fleet.

“The North Pole platform is unmatched in the world. For the first time, Russian scientists will be able to use a vessel in the high latitudes of the Arctic Ocean and conduct long-term research in comfortable and safe conditions. Soon, we will have exhaustive and factual information from the North Pole. This is very important for studying climate and ice, confirming routes for the Northern Sea Route, and ensuring Russia’s hydrometereological security. Now researchers can take along the equipment and technology that will allow them to meet their objectives,” said Mr. Shumakov.

The researchers will conduct geological, acoustical, geophysical, oceanographic and other research projects on the ship, projects that are needed for ensuring the safe navigation along the Northern Sea Route, among other things.

“The ISP makes it possible to conduct comprehensive research in the Arctic environment – from the bottom of the Arctic Ocean at a depth of about 4,000 metres through the entire ocean strata (researching currents and the properties of the water and ice) and then to the upper layers of the atmosphere and even into outer space. The platform is fitted with cutting-edge equipment for these purposes, and it is a measuring instrument in itself. It has special built-in sensors to detect the impact of ice compression. This is very important because one of the main goals of our institute is to provide forecasts for Northern Sea Route navigation. The increasing cargo traffic in Arctic seas is substantially increasing the role of hydrometereological support for safe navigation. The efficiency of ice escort operations is also important because a vessel can travel the same route with varying power usage, which in turn affects the final cost of shipping,” said Mr Makarov.

The North Pole ISP is the third research vessel in the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute’s scientific-expedition fleet. It is a product of close cooperation between Roshydromet, the Vympel Design Bureau and the institute. In the spring of 2018, Roshydromet signed a contract with the Admiralty Shipyards on designing and building an ISP. Model test was conducted in an ice basin at the institute. The platform was launched in December 2020. Two years later, on May 21, 2022, Polar Explorer Day, the platform set out on sea trials. In August, 2022, the North Pole ISP was fully commissioned.


North Pole ISP specifications:

Length: 83.1 m

Width:  22.5 m (The helipad extends 2.3 metres beyond the ship’s hull, and the bridge by 1 metre.)

Displacement: about 10,400 tons

Propulsive output: 4200 kW

Speed: minimum 10 knots

Hull strength: Arc8

Fuel endurance: about two years

Service life: minimum 25 years  

Crew: 14

Research staff: 34