In unique shipping operation, two big lift ships choose Russian Arctic route for delivery to south Siberia

Big lift cargo ships in Tiksi awaiting reloading of goods on to river barges. (Map by MarineTraffic)
Ship traffic on the great Siberian rivers is extensive, but the shipment that now is on its way to Irkutsk, not far from the border the border to Mongolia, is something out of the ordinary.

In the first part of June, the “Happy Dragon” and “Happy Diamond” set out from Australian Port Hedland and Japanese Kobe respectively and set course for Russian Arctic waters.

After a stopover in Providenya near the Bering Strait, the ships together proceeded into the Chukchi Sea and East Siberian Sea, and on the 14th July arrived in Tiksi, the town located on the coast of the Laptev Sea, information from ship tracker MarineTraffic shows.

On board the two ships from Dutch company Big Lift are 4,500 tons of equipment and big modules for a new polymeric plant in Ust-Kut, Irkutsk region.

The equipment comes from South Korea, the Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport informs.

In Tiksi, the goods are reloaded onto nine barges that will be towed 2,500 up great river Lena. It is one of the biggest shipments that ever has made its way up the river to Irkutsk, the Maritime and River Transport explains.

Several of the units are more than 500 ton heavy.

Russian Arctic ports increasingly busy

Over the last few years, several major shipments have made their ways to Russian Arctic ports and  further up Siberian rivers. In 2016, two 600 ton heavy chemical reactors were sent from South Korea to Sabetta and from there up on the Irtysh to the Pavlodar oil refinery in Kazakhstan.

In summer of 2017, several more shipments were made on the same route. This time, the destination was the south Ural city of Tobolsk and a new refinery built by company Sibur.

In Sabetta, the goods were placed on big barges that subsequently were towed more than 2,000 km up the rivers of Ob and Irtysh.

In 2019, Omsk Governor Aleksandr Burkov announced that his region intends to send major shiploads of grain down the river of Irtysh and to Arctic port of Sabetta, where the goods will be reloaded from barges to cargo ship and sent eastwards along Northern Sea Route to Japan.

The grain shipment scheme has also been supported by Rosatom, the nuclear power company with responsibility for development of the Northern Sea Route.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: 2019 saw increase in commercial shipping through Northwest Passage, Radio Canada International

China: US sanctions against Chinese shipping company could hurt Russia’s LNG exports, The Independent Barents Observer

Finland: Finland’s aging icebreaker fleet needs modernization, Yle News

Norway: Hybrid-powered electric cruise ship navigates Northwest Passage, CBC News

Russia: Arctic shipments to Asia grow as LNG carriers shuttle to eastern markets, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: US Arctic : Trump advances icebreaker plan, 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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