SSPH nickel battery solutions recover their voltage instantaneously, making them the ideal choice for starting applications off-shore.

By Karen Hollington, Saft

Saft batteries are providing critical engine starting and backup power for icebreakers that protect year-round navigation for Russia’s ports in the Azov Sea. Port operator Federal State Unitary Enterprise Rosmorport has turned to Saft to supply replacement batteries for eight ice breaking vessels after the original batteries supplied by Saft delivered more than thirty years of service. 


The new Saft nickel technology batteries include SPH models to deliver cranking power for diesel engine starting, as well as SBM batteries to provide backup power for communication, navigation, and emergency lighting systems. They are the new-generation battery types that have replaced the original H and M Nife batteries installed between 1983 and 1986 for Finnish shipbuilder Wärtsilä on behalf of the Soviet Union. 

Reliable power is essential to help icebreakers protect year-round navigation to Azov, Rostov-on-Don, and Taganrog. These ports are important gateways between industrial regions in Russia, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. Rosmorport’s thirty-five icebreakers cut routes through the ice and escort caravans of vessels over distances of up to 210 nautical miles between November and April. The enterprise icebreaker fleet is the largest in the world, performing 10,000 ice escorts each year.

Saft block batteries function in a wide range of temperatures, resist electrical abuse, shock, and vibrations, and need only basic maintenance.


As the lead vessels in the caravans, performance of safety equipment such as backup batteries on board icebreakers is vital. Wind chill means that the temperatures drop below -22 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 degrees Celsius) and ice thicknesses can reach 15 to 30 inches due to the shallowness and low salinity of the Azov Sea.

Therefore, the batteries must withstand extremely low temperatures, as well as the shock and vibration of icebreaking and storm conditions. The long life achieved by the original Saft nickel batteries was mainly due to their tough industrial construction but also to the professionalism of the icebreaker crews, who followed the battery operating schedules and standards to the letter. 


One challenge overcome during installation was due to limited space available on board the icebreakers. While the duty of the new nickel batteries is a close match with the originals, the size and shape of the new units differs slightly. To ensure smooth and straightforward installation, experts from Saft’s Moscow office worked closely with the technicians on the icebreakers at an early stage to identify new locations for batteries. 

Sergey Varnavskiy, Saft’s key account manager based in Moscow, adds, “The batteries on board the Azov Sea icebreakers are an excellent example of how Saft’s nickel batteries technology stand the test of time in the toughest industrial environments and make a meaningful contribution to strategically important operations.”

Saft manufactures SPH batteries in Bordeaux, France, and SBM batteries in Oskarshamn, Sweden.


Saft specializes in advanced technology battery solutions for industry, from the design and development to the production, customization, and service provision. For 100 years, Saft’s longer-lasting batteries and systems have provided critical safety applications, back-up power, and propulsion for their customers. Saft’s innovative, safe, and reliable technology delivers high performance on land, at sea, in the air, and in space. Saft is powering industry and smarter cities, while providing critical back-up functionality in remote and harsh environments from the Arctic Circle to the Sahara Desert. For more information, visit

Did you enjoy this article?
Subscribe to the FREE Digital Edition of Modern Pumping Today Magazine!