The flagship of the icebreaker fleet, Urho has secured its position as the favourite of a great many professionals. With a combination of power and excellent maneuverability, Urho is able to provide reliable ice-breaking performance in the worst pack ice.
In a name-giving ceremony held on 5th March 1975, the president of Finland Urho Kekkonen named the largest and most powerful icebreaker built to that date “Urho”, his namesake. This was a watershed event in Finnish winter navigation: since Urho was commissioned, all 23 winter ports on Finnish coast have remained open for year-round navigation.
This big and powerful workhorse was a result of innovative thinking. For the first time in the world, a scale model was used in ice trials to help the design process. A test pool built in Vallila in Helsinki, with funding from Exxon, was used to simulate an icebreaker's ability to force a path through ice of even thickness, as well as through pack ice, before the ship's construction was begun.
Compared to its predecessors, the displacement of the vessels in the Urho class was 60 per cent higher, while their ice resistance was reduced by one-third. The fore propellers rotate inwards, thrusting water under the hull when the vessel is travelling forward. Water flowing along the vessel's sides helps to reduce friction between the ship's hull and ice.
The rear propellers rotate outwards, causing the crushed ice to be thrust under the unbroken ice sheet, allowing the broken channel to remain open. Furthermore, the icebreakers of the Urho class were constructed with a wider hull than traditional icebreakers, in response to the growing average size of ships navigating in the Baltic Sea.
Another novelty was the design of the bridge, which allows 360-degree visibility, making it easier to maintain visual contact with the ship on tow. The vessel is equipped with a heeling mechanism for improved ice-breaking capability in severe ice conditions. Three pumps transfer water onboard the vessel, allowing it to heel thirteen degrees in just 50 seconds.
Urho has four sister ships: the Finnish Sisu, and Atle, Ymer and Frej, which sail under the Swedish flag.
PR ship for the state of Finland
One of the design principles guiding Urho's construction was its planned role as a PR ship for the highest government executives. To this end, the vessel has two saunas, a swimming pool, a gym and a library.
Foreign heads of state, as well as high-level delegations, have been entertained in Urho's lounge. The interior of the ship is decorated with paintings by renowned Finnish artists.
For extra comfort, the quarters of the guests and the crew are located above deck, separate from the engine compartment, and not below the deck as on traditional icebreakers. This helps to muffle the noise of the engine and the ice.