New icebreaking tankers sailing through Russia’s thick Arctic ice

Sea ice in Arctic Canada, in 2008. Two new Arc7 ice class LNG carriers are trying to make their way from Asia through Russia Northern Sea Route, through two-meter-thick Arctic ice. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
Two ships are on their way from China and South Korea and will have to break through up to 2 meter thick ice.

It is Sabetta, the new Russian LNG terminal in Yamal Peninsula, which is the destination of the two ships that now are breaking their way through the Northern Sea Route.

The Boris Sokolov, a 214-meter-long condensate tanker, on 11 December set out from Nansha, China. One day later, it was joined by the Boris Davydov, a 299-meter-long LNG carrier.

The ships are now both on the list of vessels sailing on the Northern Sea Route as provided by the Northern Sea Route Administration (NSRA). However, none of the vessels are visible in their current position on ship tracking services like MarineTraffic.

According to the NSRA, the ships are due to arrive in Sabetta on 20th January.

Extreme conditions

It is an extreme voyage. Sailing conditions in the area are highly complicated with thick ice. Data from the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Institute show that practically the whole East Siberian Sea is covered by up to two-meter-thick one-year ice as well as older, more solid ice. Also the Laptev Sea and the northeastern parts of the Kara Sea have thick ice layers.

According to Reuters (in Russian), the ships are sailing without icebreaker assistance. Previously, only the Eduard Toll has conducted a similar voyage at this time of year. The ship in January 2018 made it to Sabetta from South Korea. However, that was with support from a nuclear-powered icebreaker.

Pushing the limit

The Boris Sokolov and the Boris Davydov both have Arc7 ice class and are able to break through about two-meter-thick ice layers.

The Boris Sokolov is built by the Guangzhou Shipyard and was handed over to its owner, Greek company Dynacom Tankers Management, on 4th December. It is the first vessel of the kind built for shipping of condensate from Sabetta.

The Boris Davydov is built at the Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) yard in South Korea. It is the 10th vessel of its kind built for the Yamal LNG project. It has a deadweight of 97,000 tons and can carry up to 172,600 cubic meters of LNG.

Another five carriers of the kind will in the course of 2019 be delivered by the Daewoo yard.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada ill-prepared for Arctic shipping boom, G7 sustainability summit hears, Eye on the Arctic

China: China opens bids for its first nuclear-powered icebreaker, The Independent Barents Observer

Finland: Finland chooses Kirkenes in Norway for new Arctic railway terminal, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway: December sea ice levels in Arctic Europe at record low, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia loosens ice-class requirements for Arctic shipping, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden reluctantly greenlights construction of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, Radio Sweden

United States: World maritime body approves first Arctic ship routing measures, Radio Canada International

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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