Murmansk Shipping Company may split up with nuclear ice-breakers

Publish date: February 27, 1998

Written by: Igor Kudrik

At their meeting in Moscow in early February, the members of the board of shareholders of the Murmansk Shipping Company proposed to part with the atomic fleet. Murmansk Shipping Company operates eight civilian nuclear-powered vessels. The nuclear fleet is federal property.

Shareholder representatives of the Murmansk Shipping Company (MSCo) cited 1997 losses for their proposal to rid themselves of the atomic ice-breaker fleet. The proposal was drawn at MSCo’s annual meeting in Moscow in early February. The operation of the nuclear-powered fleet was blamed for part of the losses.

MSCo is a joint stock company. Forty percent of the shares belong to Menatep Bank, 35% to the state and 25% are in the hands of private investors. In addition to the conventional fleet, MSCo operates seven nuclear-powered ice-breakers and one atomic light vessel. The civilian nuclear fleet has its base in Murmansk, on the Kola Peninsula. All nuclear-powered vessels are federal property and their operational expenses are supposed to be covered through federal appropriations. Last year, however, only a fraction of the expenses were actually paid by the state.

Different ways to solve the problem are under consideration, Vaycheslav Ruksha, the director of the atomic fleet of MSCo, told Bellona WEB in an interview. One of the options is to create an Arctic Ice-Breaker Company as a venture totally or partly independent from MSCo, he added.

But Ruksha was unsure about the chances that any of the proposed structural changes will indeed be implemented.

The discussion over possibilities for MSCo to split from the atomic fleet has raged ever since MSCo became a joint stock company in 1993. But so far the issue has always ended in talk. The dispute has become increasingly acrimonious year after year, since the federal government cannot fund the full operating costs of the atomic fleet. This year seems to be no exception to this rule.