Heavy lift carrier enters icy Arctic waters en route from China to Murmansk

A 2021 file photo of the Utrenneye field, the resource base for Novatek’s Arctic LNG 2 project, located in the Gydan Peninsula on the Kara Sea shore line in the Arctic circle, some 2500 km from Moscow. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/via Getty Images)

The more than 200 meter long Pugnax sails through the Bering Strait and westwards on the Northern Sea Route. On board is a several thousand tons heavy module for Arctic LNG 2 project.

The ice-class vessel that is designed for transportation of extreme loads will be accompanied by nuclear icebreaker Sibir on its more than 6,000 km long voyage towards the Kola Bay.

The icebreaker is now about to complete its escort of LNG carrier Fedor Litke. The vessels in early June set out on the voyage towards the Pacific. It is this year’s first transit shipment across the vast Russian Arctic route.

The Sibir will now turn back westwards with the Pugnax in its wake.

Massive volumes of sea ice

There are still massive volumes of sea-ice in the area.  Maps from the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute show that there is sea-ice almost across the whole Russian Arctic, from the Kara Sea in the west to the Chukchi Sea in the east. In parts of the Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea there are belts of multi-year ice that are far harder to navigate through that the one-year old sheet.

It is not the first Arctic voyage for the heavy lift carrier that is owned and operated by the Red Box Energy Services. The ship has traversed the route several time, last time in late December 2021.

Then, like now, the cargo is a large component to Novatek’s Kola Yard in Belokamenka. The shipments are sent from the Chinese port of Tianjin.

Also sister ship Audax has sailed between China and Murmansk with LNG modules. In late February 2022, the Audax transported a 12,000 ton module for Novatek’s new plant in Murmansk in what was the biggest shipment of its kind ever transported across the Northern Sea Route in mid-winter.

Structures for Arctic LNG 2 project

Both ships are designed by Aker Arctic, the Finnish company specializing in of ice-going vessels.

A few months earlier, the Norwegian GPO Grace shipped a similar module to Belokamenka. The vessel that is owned by the Wilhelmsen Ship Management is considered one of the world’s most advanced heavy lift vessels. The vessel made it across the Arctic route to Murmansk without icebreaker escort.

The plant in Belokamenka is building the three gravity-based structures that will be used in Novatek’s Arctic LNG 2 project in Gydan. Each of the project’s three trains will have a production capacity of 6,6 million tons of liquified natural gas per year.

When ready, the gravity-based structures will be towed from Belokamenka to the Gulf of Ob where they will be moored at the Port of Utrenneye.

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

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

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