The Arktika, Russia's new nuclear-powered icebreaker championed by the Kremlin as the largest and most powerful of its kind in the world, has set sail on its maiden voyage to the Arctic as part of the country’s efforts to tap the region's commercial potential.*
The vessel left St. Petersburg on September 22 and is expected to arrive at the Arctic port of Murmansk in two weeks.
The Arktika stretches more than 173 meters in length, measures 15 meters tall, and can break ice as thick as 3 meters.
Moscow has stepped up its construction of icebreakers in a bid to boost freight traffic along Russia's Arctic coast, making the passage between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans navigable all year round.
"The creation of a modern nuclear icebreaker fleet capable of ensuring regular year-round and safe navigation through the entire Northern Sea Route is a strategic task for our country," Vyacheslav Ruksha, head of Rosatom's Northern Sea Route Directorate, said in a statement.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the country's Arctic fleet would operate at least 13 heavy-duty icebreakers, most of them powered by nuclear reactors.
The Arctic holds huge reserves of oil and gas that are being eyed by Russia and other countries, including the United States, Canada, and Norway.
Two other similar vessels -- the Ural and the Sibir -- are under construction.
Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters
*CORRECTIONS: This story has been amended to remove an erroneous nickname for the vessel and a reference to it being designed to transport liquefied natural gas.