India eyes icebreaker to use in Arctic

“We are serious about studying changes in climate change”


A view of a drift ice camp in the middle of the Arctic Ocean as seen from the deck of China's icebreaker, the Xue Long. (FILE PHOTO)

A view of a drift ice camp in the middle of the Arctic Ocean as seen from the deck of China’s icebreaker, the Xue Long. (FILE PHOTO)

India plans to build a $144-million icebreaker to conduct “scientific and business exploration” in the polar regions, reports the The Times of India.

That news comes less than a month after India, along with China, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea and Singapore, were accepted as new observers at the Arctic Council.

India’s ministry of Earth Sciences is likely to move ahead with the icebreaker by the end of 2013, Shailesh Nayak, secretary in the ministry, told the newspaper.

“This signifies that we are serious about studying changes in climate change happening in the polar regions. Right now for experiments, we hire or charter the ships from private parties in Russia and Norway for short durations,” he said.

“Scientists have to collect a lot of data to study the changes happening in the region. With this ship you can take long cruises as it has a capability of 45 days’ endurance and cut through not very thick but 1.5-2 metre ice. If you have thin layer of ice you can cut it and go there and take measurements.”

At a recent forum in Montreal on the Arctic council, Arctic policy expert Whitney Lackenbauer suggested suggested that india’s interest in the Arctic is connected to China’s increased interest in developing new shipping routes through the Arctic. That could have implications for India when China — which has disputes with India over border issues — doesn’t have to travel through the Indian Ocean anymore to reach European markets.

Meanwhile, China has also commissioned a new polar icebreaker, its second after the Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, which is due to enter service in 2014.

India plans to use its future icebreaker in the two polar regions.

“Basically the idea is that we should be able to use the ship round the year and if you can’t use it round the year, then investment is not justified. So we can use the ship for six months in Antarctica and for the same period in the Arctic,” Nayak told The Times of India.

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