Built 1987, Wärtsilä Helsinki, Finland
Tonnage 7 066 GT
Length 99,00 m
Width 24,20 m
Draugth 8,00 m
4 Wärtsilä diesels, combined 15 000 kW
1 bow thruster
Speed 18,50 knots
The Kontio and her sister Otso (both names are epithets for "bear" in Finnish) are to-date the last "traditional" icebreakers (designed exclusively for icebreaking duties, not for secondary use in the offshore industry) built for the Finnish icebreaker fleet - although a new traditional icebreaker is in the process of being ordered.
The Otso and Kontio were designed in the early 1980s to replace the older icebreaker trio Karhu, Murtaja and Sampo dating from the late 1950s that were had too narrow hulls to escort modern vessels and were expensive to operate. The Otso was ordered first, in 1984, with the Kontio following in 1985. The ships were delivered in 1986 and 1987, respectively. The pair marked a radical departure from traditional design design principles. Since the first Sampo in 1898, icebreakers built for the Finnish state had been equipped with forward-facing propellers (in addition to backwards-facing ones) to reduce friction between the ice and the hull of the ship by creating additional waterflow; they also had the added benifit of improving manoeuvrability. However, this arrangement was also expensive to operate. On the Otso and Kontio, the forward propellers were replaced by an air bubbling system developed by Wärtsilä. This was not a new invention, having first been used on the Finnlines ropax ferries Finncarrier (1969), Hans Gutzeit (1972) and Finnfellow (1973). Although many voiced concerns about this design choice, resulting in the somewhat pejorative nickname "Pohjanlahden pulputtaja" ("Bubbler of the Gulf of Bothnia") for the ship, in practice the Otso and Kontio have performed well and due to the low operating costs, they are generally the first icebreakers to leave for the field in the autumn and the last to return in spring.
As an additional departure from tradition, the Otso and Kontio were given a different livery from what hed previously been carried by Finnish icebreakers. While traditionally Finnish icebreakers were painted with black hulls and yellow superstructures, the Otso and Kontio were given a blue-write livery inspired by the colours of the Finnish flag.
Originally, the Otso and Kontio were - like all Finnish icebreakers - directly owned by the Finnish state. This changed in 2004, when a new state-owned company, Finstaship, took over the ownership and operations of the Finnish icebreaker fleet. In 2010, Finstaship was replaced by the state-owned limited company Arctia Shipping. Also in 2010, the Kontio was refitted with oil spill response equipment. From then on, she spends the non-icebreaking season under charter to the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), in constant readiness for oil recovery duties. At some point during her career, the ship has been refitted with a bow thruster to improve manoeuvrability.
The photographs below show the Kontio departing the icebreaker base at Katajanokka, Helsinki for the Gulf of Bothnia on 13 December 2013. She was the first Finnish icebreaker of the season to begin operations. Photographed from Katajanokka. Click on the images to see them in larger size.
|Peeking from behind the bushes. It doesn't show because the ship is blocking the wind, but it was extremely windy on this day.|
|Kontio with the 1970s brutalist neighbourhood of Merihaka in the background on the left.|
|Obviously there's no ice here yet, but things at quite different on the northern end of the Gulf of Bothnia, where the Kontio is headed.|
|Notice the silhouette of a bear on the side of the superstructure.|
|Also, these photos were taken at noon. Notice from how low the sun is coming from. That's Finnish winter for you.|
|Yeah, there was so some sky and water...|
|Heading out on Kruunuvuorenselkä.|