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LNG Carrier Completes Record Arctic Transit

LNG Carrier Completes Record Arctic Transit
An icebreaking liquefied natural gas (LNG) carrier has completed a record journey through the Northern Sea Route (NSR) in the Arctic.

The Christophe de Margerie owned and operated by Sovcomflot (SCF Group) covered the distance of 2,360 nautical miles eastward through the NSR, from the port of Sabetta (Yamal Peninsula) to Cape Dezhnev (the Bering Strait), in seven days and 17 hours, a new record time for a merchant ship without icebreaker support during the month of July. Throughout the record-setting passage, the vessel navigated independently without any icebreaker support and maintained an average speed of 12.8 knots.

The new record came as the LNG carrier delivered a cargo from the Yamal LNG plant at Sabetta to the port of Tangshan, China. On July 31, the vessel berthed at her destination port. In total, it took her 18.5 days to travel from Sabetta to China.

The passage along the Northern Sea Route eastward from Yamal once again confirmed the economic efficiency of this route, SCF Group noted. The voyage also marks the start of regular LNG shipments along the NSR from Russia’s Arctic gas fields to the countries of Asia Pacific.

Igor Tonkovidov, Executive Vice President and COO/CTO of SCF Group, said, “This remarkable, safe passage across the NSR has required the crew’s utmost attention and concentration. Ice conditions along the route were severe, especially in the East Siberian Sea, and the vessel experienced navigation in extended periods of limited visibility. The navigational and hydrographic situation within Arctic regions remains as challenging as ever.

“The crew of Christophe de Margerie was able to maintain a rapid yet safe speed for the tanker through effective organisation of bridge watch-keeping, highly skilled navigation, slowing the ship when approaching challenging ice fields and passing them at a safe speed, and moving reasonably quicker in areas of reduced ice cover.”

The 172,600 cubic meters capacity Christophe de Margerie is the first in a series of 15 icebreaking LNG carriers ordered for the Yamal LNG, to transport LNG year-round in the challenging ice conditions of the Kara Sea and Gulf of Ob. When completed, she became the world’s first icebreaking LNG carrier.

The vessel's propulsion system has a power capacity of 45 MW, which is comparable to that of a nuclear-powered icebreaker. This power, together with the vessel's excellent maneuvering and icebreaking capabilities, enables the ship to sail independently through ice of up to 2.1 meters thick.

Christophe de Margerie can sail unassisted along the NSR westward from Yamal all year-round, and eastward for six months of the year, from July to December. Previously, the summer navigation window in the eastern area of the Northern Sea Route was limited to only four months with icebreaker support.

The all-Russian crew numbers 29, including 13 officers. Each officer has significant Arctic shipping experience (Sovcomflot has been training its seafarers to operate LNG carriers in challenging ice conditions since 2008) and has undergone extensive additional training at the SCF training center in St. Petersburg.

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