Russia 1, Icebergs 0 as supertanker takes short cut to China  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

The SMH has an article on another crossing of the arctic by a commercial vessel, this time one carrying a shipment of gas - Russia 1, Icebergs 0 as supertanker takes short cut to China.

FOR 500 years, commodity traders have been trying to conquer the treacherous waters of the Russian Arctic passage - aware of its potential as a lucrative short-cut shipping route.

The path is blocked all winter and only smaller cargo vessels manage to navigate through the icebergs for two to three months each northern summer.

But this week, the first commercial supertanker has succeeded in traversing the strait. Carrying 70,000 tonnes of gas from Murmansk in Russia destined for Ningbo in China, it has moved the difficult Northern Sea Route a step closer to rivalling the Suez Canal in the south.

At the most dangerous stretch of the journey - the Vilkitsky Strait - sailors aboard the Baltica threw flowers into the water in memory of all the men who had died in pursuit of a quicker trade route.

Russian traders have been navigating their northern coast since 1934, transporting fuel, supplies and other goods to remote Arctic settlements. But only recently, as the polar ice increasingly diminishes each summer, has it again been considered a possible commercially viable route for shipping goods from Europe round the northern coast of Russia to China, Japan and Korea.

Last year, two German vessels became the first European cargo ships to use the passage as a route to the Far East with a modest 3500 tonnes of construction parts.

But the latest little-noticed news is far more significant: that a giant Russian tanker carrying a huge cargo of gas has managed to cross the passage in just 11 days - half the time it would take to go through the Suez Canal.

The giant Baltica will have to travel only 13,000 kilometres rather than the 22,000 it would take to go through the Suez Canal.

''Never before has a ship of this size passed via the north-east sea passage,'' Captain Alexander Nikiforov said in an interview with Russian television.

Experts estimate that it could be four times cheaper in terms of fuel and charter time than the conventional route to China and the rest of Asia through the Middle East.

2 comments

The fact that they used a gas tanker is telling in itself. Because of the much greater expense of confining LPG gas tankers are much more costly than other cargo ships. The Russians must have been extremely confident that the route would be clear of obstructions.

Bob Wallace   says 10:08 AM

13,000 km vs 22,000 km. 41% less distance.

Any idea how this would work into a 4x savings in time and fuel?

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