(www.MaritimeCyprus.com) A Russian tanker just set two Arctic records. The ship not only traveled through the Arctic in record time, but has done so without the use of an icebreaker escort.
On 16 August 2017, the Sovcomflot-owned icebreaking LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie, which is under Cyprus Flag, successfully completed her first commercial voyage, transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) through the Northern Sea Route (NSR) from Norway to South Korea. During this voyage, the vessel set a new time record for an NSR (Kara Sea, along Siberia, to the Bering Strait) transit of just 6 days 12 hours and 15 minutes (30 percent faster than traditional southern shipping routes through the Suez Canal). 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. The transit took
The de Margerie is, according to Sovcomflot's press release, "the world's first and currently the only icebreaking LNG carrier." Built by South Korean shipbuilder Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. Ltd., the ship is the first of its kind to be awarded an Arc7 ice class rating, meaning it can withstand up to -50 degrees C and can navigate though ice more than 2.1 meters thick (6.8 feet). An Arc7 rating allows a ship to legally operate at certain parts of the world at certain, colder parts of the year.
"It's very quick, particularly as there was no icebreaker escort which previously there had been in journeys," says Bill Spears, spokesperson for Sovcomflot, in a statement. "It's very exciting that a ship can go along this route all year round."
Given the environmental concerns that would face an increased shipping presence in the Arctic, which Spears calls a "fragile ecosystem," Sovcomflot has tried to point towards the greener elements in the de Margerie. The ship can run on the same LNG it transports (which the Russian government plans on producing in coming years), which would lower traditional sulfur oxide emissions by 90 percent and nitrous oxide emissions by 80 percent.
The de Margerie, after all, is a bet on climate change. Even if all carbon dioxide production was suddenly halted on the Earth, there's still enough in the atmosphere to weaken the hold ice has on the Arctic. Some of it will melt, and as it does, the area will be seen as an increasingly viable shipping route.