The LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie is currently completing its experimental round trip voyage. For the first time in history, a large-capacity cargo vessel is transiting the eastern sector of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) in February.
Traditionally, transit navigation along this segment of the NSR ends in November and only begins again in July.
Christophe de Margerie started voyage on 5 January 2021 at the port of Sabetta. The LNG carrier safely completed its passage eastward along the Northern Sea Route in 11 days, while navigating the entire length of the NSR without needing icebreaker assistance.
After discharging its cargo at the port of Jiangsu in China on 27 January, the vessel sailed back towards Sabetta, and on 7 February, upon reaching the eastern end of the Northern Sea Route, Cape Dezhnev, met the icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy, which then escorted the ship back to Sabetta. At the time of the report, Christophe de Margerie and its nuclear icebreaker escort were approaching the Vilkitsky Strait in the Laptev Sea.
The convoy wa scheduled to arrive at the port of Sabetta on 19 January 2021.
Providing an update on the journey of the ship, Sergey Gen, Master of Christophe de Margerie, reported that the voyage is going normally, the vessel is in full working order, and all the 33 crew members are in good health. The ice conditions encountered along the route were challenging, though within the expected parameters.
The biggest issues faced by the vessel were ice pressure and ice hummocks in the Chukchi Sea and the East Siberian Sea, through which it had to move astern.
During the passage along the Northern Sea Route, the ship maintained a safe speed under the ice and weather conditions.
Commenting on the journey, Yury Trutnev, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, stated:
The Northern Sea Route is a transportation route of major importance for Russia. Using NSR makes it possible to cut the travel time from Europe to Asia by sea by more than a third. In 2020, almost 33 million tonnes of cargo were transported along the Northern Sea Route, including over 18 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas. In the last five years, the cargo traffic along the NSR has grown almost fivefold, but in fact, the route can handle a lot more than that
In addition, according to Igor Tonkovidov, President and CEO of Sovcomflot, the current voyage of Christophe de Margerie significantly expands the navigation window in the in the eastern sector of the Russian Arctic, and confirms that year-round safe navigation is possible along the entire length of the Northern Sea Route.
This will result in more efficient use of this transportation corridor for the Russian economy by facilitating the implementation of large-scale industrial projects in the Russian Arctic.
In the near future, Sovcomflot expect the demand for appropriately competent crew members to significantly increase. From 2023 to 2025, the company plans to take delivery of 18 new-generation icebreaking LNG carriers to service the Arctic LNG 2 project.