This is the first independent transit done this late in a year by a non-Russian vessel, says Andreas Kjøl at Viking Ice Consultancy. To enable safe and efficient navigation through the ice without any Russian ice breaker support, continuously updated information about the ice conditions has been crucial.
KSAT is one of several partners in a FP7-project, PolarIce. During the transit crew onboard Tor Viking and at the Viking Shore Operation Center, has been successfully demonstrating the developed distribution solutions of ice information products aimed for ship users in Artic waters.
Finding leads within the ice, and avoiding areas of heavy ice is important to save time and ensure a safe journey. This has been enabled by using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery delivered Near-Real-Time (NRT). The new opportunity of finding leads within the ice has in some cases increasing speed from 5 to 12 knots, says Kjøl.
SAR-imagery from several missions was ordered to ensure continuous coverage along the route. Planning satellite image acquisitions for a “moving target” like this is something new and more challenging for us, says KSAT project manager, Hans Eilif Larsen. We have been providing Sentinel-1, RISAT-1 and RADARSAT-2 imageries to the vessel. Also having the opportunity ingesting the radar imagery into Transas ECDIS onboard made navigation easier, says Master mariner Erik Almkvist at Viking supply ships.
In addition to the provided SAR imagery, also regular ice charts, weather and ice forecasts from other providers like AARI, StormGeo and other PolarIce-partners has been used to ensure a safe and efficient transit through NSR. Recently the vessel reached Norwegian waters successfully after 10 days within the ice. During the transit both crew, people at Viking Shore Operation Center, and KSAT has gained a lot of experience to be used for future Arctic operations.