The northern sea route (NSR) record set this week by a vessel of the Sovcomflot fleet cut about 30% sailing time off LNG deliveries via the Suez Canal. On 17 August 2017, the Sovcomflot-owned icebreaking LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie successfully completed her first commercial voyage, transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) through the NSR from Norway to South Korea.
During this voyage, the ice class Arc7 vessel set a new time record for an NSR transit of just 6 days 12 hours and 15 minutes. Moreover, Christophe de Margerie has also become the world’s first merchant vessel to travel the full length of the NSR without any icebreaker escort.
During her record-setting voyage, the LNG carrier covered 2,193 nautical miles (4,060 km) from Cape Zhelaniya of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago to Cape Dezhnev at Chukotka, Russia’s easternmost continental point. This confirmed the vessel’s ability to operate in harsh, high-latitude environments. Her average speed during the passage exceeded 14 knots, despite the fact that in some areas she had to sail through ice fields 1.2 metres thick. The LNG carrier is capable of sailing independently through ice of up to 2.1 metres thick.
The total time of the voyage from Hammerfest in Norway to the port of Boryeong in South Korea was 19 days, about 30 per cent faster than the regular southern route through the Suez Canal. This demonstrates the economic potential of using the Northern Sea Route for large-capacity vessel transits.
Christophe de Margerie is the world’s first and currently the only icebreaking LNG carrier, the first vessel in a series of 15 gas carriers planned for the Yamal LNG project. She is named after Christophe de Margerie, the former CEO of Total, who played a key role in developing the investment decisions behind, and a technological basis for, the Yamal LNG project.