On 16 January 2021, at 20:20 Moscow time (17:20 GMT), SCF’s LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie, reached Cape Dezhnev in Russia’s Far East, completing her eastbound voyage carrying a cargo of LNG along the Northern Sea Route (“NSR”), for Yamal LNG, from the Port of Sabetta in the Russian Arctic to the Asia Pacific market.
For the first time ever, Russian LNG has been transported across this route in January.
The successful NSR passage proves that during the autumn-winter navigation season, commercial cargo shipping across the Eastern part of the Russian Arctic becomes possible for an additional 1-2 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 LNG carrier’s voyage, from exiting the Gulf of Ob’s seaway channel to Cape Dezhnev, lasted 10 days 21 hours, during which time the vessel covered 2,474 nautical miles.
Importantly, Christophe de Margerie navigated the entire length of the NSR independently without icebreaker assistance. She maintained a safe speed under the prevailing ice conditions and limited visibility. With her double action hull design, the vessel sailed stern-first for about 66 per cent of the steaming time, to overcome the ice hummocks. The average voyage speed was 9.5 knots.
Igor Tonkovidov, President and CEO of PAO Sovcomflot, said:
“Christophe de Margerie’s voyage, in January, continues the longstanding efforts of SCF and NOVATEK to develop large-capacity cargo shipping in the Arctic, and to further expand the window of transportation opportunities in the challenging ice and navigational conditions of the Arctic Sea Basin. 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. Faster voyages along the Northern Sea Route, when compared with the conventional southern route through the Suez Canal, are not just more cost-effective but they also significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the cargo transportation.”
Sergey Gen, Master of the vessel, reported the successful completion of the passage to Vitaly Saveliev, Russia’s Minister of Transport, via a video link. The Minister congratulated SCF on this accomplishment and thanked the Master and his crew for their excellent performance throughout this important task. The reporting ceremony was also attended by Sergey Frank, Chairman of the Board of Directors of PAO Sovcomflot, and Igor Tonkovidov, President and CEO of PAO Sovcomflot.
Vitaly Saveliev noted:
“It is gratifying that SCF is consistent in developing its cutting-edge shipping expertise. 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. I am confident that Sovcomflot’s experience of operating in the Arctic will enable the safe and consistent delivery of Russian exports to the global market, particularly LNG that will account for a substantial part of the projected NSR cargo traffic.”
The passage has provided detailed information about the icebreaking capability and maneuverability of the Arc7 ice class LNG carriers, while navigating under conditions typical for the Eastern part of the NSR in January, in a range of modes.
The extensive use of satellite-assisted ice reconnaissance, as well as analytical tools for the assessment and forecasting of ice conditions, developed by SCF, has allowed the safest and most cost-efficient route for the vessel to be selected.
A day later, another Arc7 ice class LNG carrier followed the same route. She used the data collected by Christophe de Margerie and the channel made by her in the ice fields. This allowed two sister vessels to work out interaction tactics, whilst navigating in ice without icebreaker assistance.
In 2010-2011, SCF Group and NOVATEK together with Atomflot completed several experimental transit voyages along the NSR, proving the technical and economic feasibility of using this route as a transport corridor for large-scale cargo ships. These high-latitude voyages have laid the foundations for the implementation of large-scale LNG projects at the Ob River estuary.
In 2017, SCF Group introduced Christophe de Margerie, the world’s first icebreaking LNG carrier. She was the lead ship in the series of 15 sister vessels (ice class Arc 7, cargo capacity of 172,600 cbm), purpose designed for year-round transportation of LNG in the Russian Arctic, for the Yamal LNG project. The vessel has excellent icebreaking and manoeuvering capabilities, as well as a high power capacity, which allows her to safely operate in the extreme conditions of high latitudes.
In December 2017, Christophe de Margerie transported the first cargo of LNG produced by the Yamal LNG plant. The same year, Christophe de Margerie was named ‘Engineering Project of the Year’ at the 2017 S&P Global Platts Global Energy Awards.
In 2020, Christophe de Margerie became the first large-capacity cargo vessel to complete an eastbound transit of the Northern Sea Route in May, two months earlier than when navigation traditionally commences.