Sovcomflot’s Arc7-class icebreaking LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie has completed its first voyage through the northern sea route
The world’s largest icebreaking tanker, the Arc7 LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie, has successfully completed its first LNG cargo voyage, delivering a cargo from Norway to South Korea in mid-August. The Sovcomflot-owned vessel departed from Norway’s Hammerfest LNG plant, via the Northern Sea Route (NSR), sailing through the Bering Strait on August 6, fully laden and without an icebreaker escort, arriving at Korea’s Boryeong LNG terminal on August 17, according to stakeholder Total.
During the voyage, the vessel set a new time record for an NSR transit of just 6 days, 12 hours and 15 minutes. The Christophe de Margerie is only the fifth LNG carrier to transit the ice-bound NSR waterway, which is only navigable when ice conditions permit, a period which lasts for around 145 days between May or June and October or November. It is the first of 15 vessels planned to service Russia’s Yamal LNG project, where the first cargo loadings are anticipated in October, with commercial production scheduled for 2018.
In the winter navigation season of 2016-17, the Arc7 ice-class tanker successfully passed a series of ice tests. The Yamal LNG developers claimed in an August 1 statement that the use of the NSR from Europe cuts the transportation time to Eastern and Southeast Asian markets in half compared to the use of the traditional route. It has previously indicated that the route can shave 10-12 days off a sailing from the West to Japan, when compared with a voyage through the Suez Canal.
The specially outfitted LNG tanker, which has a shipping capacity of 80,000 tonnes, previously started test voyages without cargo in March, although the first company to transit the NSR carrying LNG was Gazprom Marketing & Trading, which took Dynagas’ 145,700 cubic metre ice-class 1A and winterised Ob River vessel to Japan in late 2012.
The first cargo loadings at Yamal LNG are expected in October, with commercial production scheduled for next year. At times when the NSR’s ice thickness exceeds the fleet’s capabilities, LNG will be transported to Europe and then transferred to the conventional route through the Suez Canal. Yamal LNG also said the start of LNG shipments though the NSR with the Arc7 ice-class tankers would help to increase cargo turnovers to clients in Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan and develop navigation in the Arctic Ocean.
The 16.5 million tpy Yamal LNG project, led by Novatek and Total, is located in the Arctic Circle on the River Ob estuary, which ices over for nine months of the year.