02 September 2019
Sovcomflot’s LNG-fuelled Aframax crude oil tanker Korolev Prospect began a transit of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) on 26 August. She will become the first such large-capacity crude oil tanker to travel the entire length of the Northern Sea Route using only cleaner-burning LNG fuel.
The tanker is delivering a cargo of crude oil from the port of Murmansk to China. The journey along the NSR, from Cape Zhelaniya to Cape Dezhnev, will take about eight days, with vessel moving at the expected average speed of 12 knots. While transiting from the Laptev Sea to the East Siberian Sea, the vessel will follow the ‘Tikhonov’ deep-water route that lies north of the New Siberian Islands, which was first opened for commercial shipping in 2011 by SCF’s tanker Vladimir Tikhonov.
The crew of Korolev Prospect includes Vasily Yermakov, one of the most experienced ice captains in SCF’s fleet, who acts as an ice adviser for this voyage. Compared with standard marine fuels, vessels using LNG fuel achieve a significant reduction in vessel emissions whilst also improving the ship’s energy efficiency.
Today, Sovcomflot has six LNG-fuelled crude oil tankers in operation, including Korolev Prospect, and five more under construction.
SCF vessels have been successfully operating in the Arctic seas for over a decade. During this period, the company has accumulated unique experience operating advanced marine equipment in harsh environment of high latitudes, as well as developing and introducing logistics support solutions for large-scale energy projects in the Russian Arctic.
In 2010-2011, Sovcomflot completed several experimental transit voyages along the NSR, proving that using this route as a transport corridor for large-scale cargo ships is both technically feasible and economically viable. These high-latitude voyages involving SCF’s vessels have laid the foundation for implementation of such projects as Yamal LNG and Novy Port. In 2017, Sovcomflot introduced Christophe de Margerie, the world’s first icebreaking LNG carrier. She is capable of sailing independently through ice up to 2.1 metres thick. The carrier can travel along the NSR westward from Yamal all year-round, and eastward for six months of the year (from July to December).
While the choice of LNG as a fuel will be welcomed, environmentalist organisations are opposed to transporting crude through waters in high latitudes.