Russian LNG tanker reaches Japan after traversing Northern Sea Route

Alaska DispatchAccording to the Financial Times (via IBN Live), Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom‘s loaded LNG tanker, Ob River, arrived in Japanese waters Wednesday after safely traversing the Arctic’s Northern Sea Route (NSR). Ob River is the first vessel of its kind to ever make the Arctic crossing successfully.

Ob River traveled more than 6,000 miles through the icy seas of the NSR and is now preparing to dock at the Tobata Port in Fukuoka Prefecture in southwestern Japan, according to news site SinaEnglish.

The tanker, which has the capacity to carry 3.1 billion cubic feet of gas equivalent, or about 63,000 metric tons of LNG, set sail in early November from a gas liquefaction plant on the Barents Sea coast at Hammerfest, Norway, operated by state-controlled Statoil. The vessel’s traverse through the NSR was the first time a tanker carrying LNG has attempted the passage. A nuclear-powered icebreaker reportedly accompanied it on part of its voyage.

Tankers like Ob River typically have to travel down through the Atlantic Ocean, through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, then across the Indian Ocean and up to Asia. The standard trip takes tankers an extra three weeks when compared to the NSR. (To see a map comparing the two routes, click here.)

The NSR is usually impassible to tankers, save for four months during the warmest parts of the year. But, with the apparent warming of the Arctic, sea ice has been thinner and less prevalent, leaving the route open for longer periods during the year.

Read more about the Ob River crossing.

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