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“We already have the world’s largest nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet,” Putin said. “Let’s work on building an entire range of [high-tech] vessels.”
Russia is the world’s second largest oil producer.
The ship is the first in a series of auxiliary vessels with icebreaking capability designed to supply offshore oil platforms in Russia’s northern territorial waters.
Russian experts estimate recoverable oil and gas resources on the continental shelf at 100 billion tons of oil equivalent.
Russia plans to spend around 1.3 trillion rubles ($44 billion) on economic and social projects in the Arctic by 2020, while total investment in Arctic oil exploration in Russia would amount to $500 billion through 2050, according to officials.
The Vitus Bering supply ship, which will operate on a long-term loan to a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, was built by Finland’s Arctech Helsinki Shipyard and Russia’s Vyborg Shipyard JSC.
Putin said he was pleased to note that Russian shipbuilders made 90 per cent of the vessel’s hull.
The development of a large fleet of vessels capable of operating in heavy sea ice is imperative for the successful exploration not only of Russia’s existing oil and gas reserves, but also its prospective reserves in the Arctic.
Arctic territories, believed to hold huge untapped natural resources, have increasingly been at the center of conflicting territorial claims involving the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark in recent years – particularly, as rising temperatures lead to a reduction in sea ice, providing access to lucrative offshore oil and gas deposits.