Sovcomflot expands Northern Sea Route transit season as LNG carrier completes Arctic leg



A Sovcomflot (SCF Group)-owned Arc7 LNG carrier has completed an eastbound laden transit of part of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) in January.

The voyage comes as Russia moves to extend the season for commercial shipments through Arctic waters.

Sovcomflot said its 172,600-cbm, ice-breaking vessel Christophe de Margerie (built 2017) took 10 days and 21 hours to sail from the Gulf of Ob’s seaway channel.

The vessel had loaded at Yamal LNG’s Sabetta LNG terminal and travelled to Cape Dezhnev in the east — a distance of 2,474 nautical miles (4,582 km).

The voyage was undertaken without icebreaker assistance under the lead of Sovcomflot master Sergey Gen, who is experienced with the NSR.

The vessel, which along with its 14 sisterships has dual bridges facing stern and aft, sailed stern first for about 66% of steaming time to overcome the ice hummocks encountered.

The average voyage speed was 9.5 knots.

Channel cutting

The shipowner said the passage has provided detailed information about the ice-breaking capability and manoeuvrability of the Arc7 ice class LNG carriers in a range of modes at this time of year.

Sovcomflot has developed satellite-assisted ice reconnaissance and analytical tools to determine the best routes for vessels.

The 172,600-cbm LNG carrier Nikolay Yevgenov (built 2019) followed the Christophe de Margerie a day later.

Sovcomflot said this second vessel used the data collected by its flagship and the channel made by it in the ice fields.

“This allowed two sister vessels to work out interaction tactics, whilst navigating in ice without icebreaker assistance,” the company said.

Sovcomflot said this is the first time Russian LNG has been transported across this route in January.

The company added that the LNG carrier’s passage proves that during the autumn-winter season, commercial cargo shipping across the eastern part of the Russian Arctic is possible for an additional one to two months.

“This voyage is yet another step towards the year-round, safe navigation along the full length of the NSR. This will also help realise Russia’s plans to grow NSR cargo traffic and further unlock the route’s transit potential,” the company said.

Russian dream

Sovcomflot president and chief executive Igor Tonkovidov said: “Year-round navigation in the Eastern part of the Russian Arctic has been a centuries-old dream of Russia’s pioneering seafarers, and now we are one step closer to it.

“This will result in more efficient use of the Northern Sea Route for the Russian economy, whilst contributing to the success of large-scale industrial projects at the Ob River estuary and across the entire Russian Arctic,” he said.

Tonkovidov said the speed of voyages on the Arctic route compared with a southern transit through the Suez Canal is more cost-effective and reduces the journey's carbon footprint.

Yamal’s lead shareholder Novatek said the cargo delivery to Asia-Pacific by this route is 40% shorter using the Suez Canal.

Chaiman of the management board Leonid Mikhelson said the voyage route allows cut its carbon emissions by 7,000 tons per round trip.

Russia’s Minister of Transport, Vitaly Saveliev, said: “Today, we have seen a new chapter added to the history of the Northern Sea Route’s development and the Russian practice of ice navigation.

“SCF plays a crucial role within our plans to increase cargo traffic along the Northern Sea Route,” he said.

Saveliev added that LNG that will account for a substantial part of projected NSR cargo traffic.(Copyright)