Arctic Russia: Chinese-built tanker tests ice in remote waters

The icebreaking tanker Boris Sokolov is sailing through thick ice in Arctic Russia. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
Ice lies thick on the water as the world’s first icebreaking condensate tanker sails into a shallow bay by Taymyr peninsula, in Russia’s central Arctic.

The Boris Sokolov is one of the best ice-protected tankers in the world and has already proved its capabilities. In January this year, the ship made it from the Guangzhou Shipyard in China, through the Northern Sea Route and all the way to Murmansk in northwest Russia.

It was the darkest and coldest part of the year and the ship had to break through up to two meters thick ice.

Now, the ship is located in coastal waters along the Taymyr Peninsula. Data from MarineTraffic show that the tanker had sailed from Sabetta in Yamal and that on Monday it was lying idle in a bay near the Island of Kolosomykh. According to the Northern Sea Route Administration the ship is due to pass Cape Zhelaniya and exit the Northern Sea Route on 13th May.

On Tuesday, it moved out of the Taymyr bay with a west-bound course.

The ship is reported to undergo ice-testing in the area.

Ice remains thick along major parts of the Northern Sea Route. Along the westerns shores of the Taymyr, there is still solid fast ice belt. Data from the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute show that the whole Kara Sea and Laptev Sea the last week of April was covered by one-year old ice up to two meters thick. Along the coast, in the fast ice belt, the solidity and thickness of the ice is even bigger.

The Boris Sokolov is the world’s first Arctic condensate tanker of its kind. It has a deadweight of 43,300 tons and was handed over to its owner, Greek company Dynacom Tankers Management, on 4th December 2018.

It is built by the Guangzhou Shipyard in south China. The project has proved the Chinese yard’s capability to build Arctic vessels. That experience will be actively applied as China now increasingly looks towards Arctic waters. Several more Arctic vessels are under construction in China, including icebreakers.

The 214 meter long Boris Sokolov early this year spent about 6 weeks on its voyage from Nansha, China, to Northwest Russian port of Murmansk. Parts of the voyage was made together with new LNG carrier Boris Davydov. Both have ice class Arc and are designed by Finnish ship design company Aker Arctic.

According to Aker Arctic, the Boris Sokolov will be used primarily to transport gas condensate from Sabetta LNG terminal to customers in Europe and Asia. It can also be applied as a regular oil tanker.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: The Arctic shipping route no one is talking about, Cryopolitics Blog

China: Details of China’s nuclear-powered icebreaker revealed, The Independent Barents Observer

Finland: Authorities in Arctic Finland plan zones for controversial rail line, Yle News

Russia: Russia, China step up talks over Arctic shipping, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Local shipping generates more emissions than domestic flights

United States: U.S. must pay attention to growing China-Russia alliance in Arctic: expert, Alaska Public Media

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

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

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