Nuclear comeback

The Russian government is planning to refurbish the 34,000-gt nuclear-powered LASH containership Sevmorput (built 1999) and return it to commercial service.

When the ship makes its first commercial voyage, slated to begin in Ferbruary 2016, it will be the only atomic-powered commercial cargo ship in service.

Never intended to be commercially profitable, the Sevmorput was a project of the former Soviet Union, designed to ensure reliable year-round service to ports in the Russian arctic.

The ship, which is owned by state nuclear ship authority Atomflot and last operated by the Murmansk Shipping Co, was designed to carry either 74 cargo lighters or 1,328 twenty foot containers.

It’s active career to date has been somewhat chequered, with periods of active service mixed in with long periods of lay-up. Its latest spell in lay-up is believed to have begun back in 2007, when a plan to convert it into a drillship was called off.

Last year the ship was earmarked for demolition, but according to Russian news sources a new decision was recently made to revive the ship for further commercial cargo service.

Although nuclear power is quite common in military ships and ice-breakers, it never made a cross-over into commercial shipping despite high interest and several demonstration vessels being constructed in the 1960s.

High building and operating costs, combined with fears over possible dangers resulting from the presence of nuclear reactors in ports, have been the main reasons why the commercial shipping world has shown little interest in atomic power.