February 19, 2021

The LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie is currently completing her experimental round trip voyage. For the first time in history, a large-capacity cargo vessel is transiting the eastern sector of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) in February. Traditionally, transit navigation along this segment of the NSR ends in November and only resumes again in July.
Christophe de Margerie began her voyage on 5 January 2021 at the port of Sabetta. The LNG carrier safely completed her passage eastward along the Northern Sea Route in 11 days, while navigating the entire length of the NSR without icebreaker assistance.
After discharging her cargo at the port of Jiangsu in China on 27 January, the vessel sailed back towards Sabetta, and on 7 February, upon reaching the eastern end of the Northern Sea Route, Cape Dezhnev, met the icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy, which then escorted her back to Sabetta. At the time of the report, Christophe de Margerie and her nuclear icebreaker escort were approaching the Vilkitsky Strait in the Laptev Sea.
Igor Tonkovidov, President and CEO of Sovcomflot, said the following in his presentation:
“The current voyage of Christophe de Margerie significantly expands the navigation window in the in the eastern sector of the Russian Arctic, and confirms that year-round safe navigation is possible along the entire length of the Northern Sea Route. This will result in more efficient use of this transportation corridor for the Russian economy by facilitating the implementation of large-scale industrial projects in the Russian Arctic. SCF’s extensive experience of operating vessels in the Arctic suggests that working in this region requires major additional competencies and a very high level of discipline from vessel crews. In the near future, we expect the demand for appropriately competent crew members to significantly increase. From 2023 to 2025, the company plans to take delivery of 18 new-generation icebreaking LNG carriers to service the Arctic LNG 2 project, which will create over a thousand new jobs for Russian seafarers. In 2020, Sovcomflot initiated a large-scale programme to train the required personnel from its existing officers. We also believe more efforts should be made to train these kinds of professionals within the Russian system of maritime vocational training.”
Since 2010, Sovcomflot, NOVATEK and Atomflot are organising a series of experimental cargo voyages along the Northern Sea Route. In 2010, the tanker SCF Baltica completed a voyage that proved both the technical feasibility and the economic viability of using this route as a transport corridor for large-scale energy shipping. In 2011, the tanker Vladimir Tikhonov opened up a completely new deep-water route to the north of the New Siberian Islands archipelago for commercial shipping. In 2017, the LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie set a new time record for an NSR transit of just 6 days 12 hours and 15 minutes, in summer. In 2019, the ‘Green Funnel’ vessel Korolev Prospect became the first large-capacity crude oil tanker to cross the Northern Sea Route using only cleaner-burning LNG fuel. In 2020, Christophe de Margerie became the first large-capacity cargo vessel to complete an eastbound transit of the Northern Sea Route in May, two months earlier than when navigation traditionally commences.
(Source and Image: Sovcomflot – Christophe de Margerie and 50 Let Pobedy icebreaker on the Northern Sea Route)