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28 August 2017

Russian LNG Tanker/Icebreaker Navigates the Arctic’s Northern Sea Route in Record Time

The Russian tanker-icebreaker-cross Christophe de Margerie, the first and only ship of its kind in the world, recently completed its first commercial voyage, transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Norway to South Korea via the Northern Sea Route in the Russian Arctic region. Despite sea ice which measured approximately 1.2 metres thick, the tanker managed an average speed in excess of 14 knots, navigating the famous sea route in just 6.5 days and setting a new speed record in the process.

The ice-breaking LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie   - Img: Sovcomflot
The entire voyage from Hammerfest in Norway to Boryeong in South Korea took 19 days to complete, around 12 days or 30% shorter than the traditional southern route taken via the Suez Canal. As the first ever hybrid of an LNG tanker and an icebreaker the Christophe de Margerie is able to operate all year round, facilitating the transportation of LNG from the Yamal project on behalf of the state-run Sovcomflot group.

As a result of the effects of global warming, which has impacted upon the condition and prevalence of Arctic sea ice in quite a noticeable manner, the Northern Sea Route is able to be navigated all year round with a little assistance from an icebreaker or two, a requirement the Christophe de Margerie is able to bypass due to its unique design.

This increased access to the region has made the Northern Sea Route one of the most valuable shipping routes in the world as not only does it provide the shortest route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via the Russia-controlled region of the Arctic Circle, the ice is also believed to be concealing vast reserves of minerals, crude oil, and natural gas.

Russia already control the largest section of the Arctic Circle of all bordering nations, and having control over such a vital trade route between Europe and Asia is sure to only further increase their standing in the ongoing race for Arctic superiority.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for the written word. Currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor, his time at many UK festivals has taught him the importance of keeping warm.