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27 Mar 2024

An Ice Cold Challenge

Ice Advisor 1

This winter, maritime operations and icebreaking efforts in the Bay of Bothnia have truly been put to the test due to extremely challenging ice conditions and winds. Even with SOL’s solid experiences with icy waters, this season reminds us that we're still at nature's mercy, despite our best efforts.


After an early start to the winter, icebreakers on both the Swedish and Finnish sides of the Bay of Bothnia have been kept busy. This year's wind patterns led to extensive pack ice, with some areas seeing thicknesses of solid ice up to 70 centimeters and with ridged or hummocked ice of several meters. The situation intensified further when Hurricane Ingunn swept across the North Atlantic in late January/early February. In the midst of these severe conditions, harbor workers grappled with the challenges posed by the piercing cold and forceful winds. Simultaneously, despite the relentless efforts of the icebreakers, their capacity was stretched thin. As the ice grew stubbornly thick, several vessels were trapped in the ice on their way to the Port of Luleå.

“In such conditions even our vessels, with ice class 1 A, rely on the invaluable support of icebreakers. We have an experienced crew accustomed to navigating through ice, but that particular Friday night was exceptionally challenging,” says Kent Tullock, General Manager SOL Breakbulk.



With a sense of urgency, as the first light of Saturday broke, SOL Breakbulk reached out to the Swedish Maritime Administration to discuss possible solutions, ensuring timely deliveries. A pivotal move was to enlist one of their most skilled ice navigation captains, for optimal guidance onboard. The only issue was Captain Persson who was 1 400 kilometers away.

“Within a few hours, after a short briefing with the Breakbulk-team, I was on my way to Luleå, awaiting the weather to clear just enough for the helicopter to bring me to the vessel,” recounted Captain Tobias Persson, emphasizing the efficiency and teamwork in those critical hours.

He adds:

“Once onboard, I began coordinating with the icebreaker to initiate our move as soon as they could assist.”

By the dawn of Monday, Captain Persson and the crew received the necessary assistance, with icebreakers paving the way for a cautious but steady progression toward the Port of Luleå.

Tobias Ice Advisor


Thanks to the quick response from the SOL Breakbulk team, and the excellent support from the ice breaker, the ship made it in time for the scheduled unloading early Tuesday morning.

“Despite the challenges, the customer’s goods were delivered as promised, and the vessel was able to depart on time, heading towards Finland to load timber bound for Egypt, keeping everything on track,” Captain Tobias Persson elaborates.

"For us, it's a given to take responsibility and rise to the occasion, ensuring that our clients' needs are met with punctuality and reliability. It benefits everyone. Decades of operating in the Bay of Bothnia have equipped us with a wealth of experience, a dedicated team and a robust network. However, winters like these make it clear that we must work together. Also, to keep the ports in northern Sweden and Finland open all year round, we depend on a modern icebreaker fleet." concludes Kent Tullock.


Name: Tobias Persson
Title: Captain and Ice Advisor
Cooperated with SOL since 1995. Started as a deckhand and navigating officer advancing to Captain in 2005.

Photos: Tobias Persson

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