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World's most eco-friendly icebreaker starts duty

The first ever natural gas-powered icebreaker, dubbed Polaris, set off for the Bay of Bothnia from Katajanokka harbour in Helsinki on Monday afternoon.

Jäänmurtaja Polaris

The first icebreaker in the world to run on liquefied natural gas (LNG) started off for its first stint of icebreaking duty in the Bay of Bothnia Monday. The Bothnia Bay is the northernmost part of the Gulf of Bothnia, which is in turn the northern part of the Baltic Sea.

The vessel, dubbed Polaris, is the world's first icebreaker to be able to use both LNG and ultra-low-sulfur diesel as fuel. This dual fuel ability decreases the amount of carbon dioxide and other pollutants produced during its operations.

Shipping company Arctia calls Polaris the world's most environmentally friendly diesel-powered icebreaker, as well as the most powerful.

In celebration of Finland's centenary, the ship is decorated with the official design of the 100-year jubilee.

Eighth in fleet

The state-owned limited company Arctia is responsible for ensuring the smooth flow of winter navigation to and from Finland's ports, all of which are in danger of freezing and becoming inaccessible in cold weather.

Built by Arctech Helsinki Shipyard, Polaris is the eighth icebreaker in the Arctia fleet, and the first newcomer since 1998.

Polaris' skipper Pasi Järvelin says that the vessel and its crew have awaited their first official bit of business for weeks.

"Over the weekend we refuelled the ship with 1,000 cubic metres of low-sulfur diesel at Katajanokka," Järvelin says. "We could have fit more in but we wanted to keep her light for certain waterways."

Polaris will join the Finnish icebreakers Otso and Kontio, which have been hard at work breaking ice in the northern waters since early December.

Finland's first icebreaker, Murtaja, predates Finnish independence, as it began its operations already in 1890.

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