The Ob River liquefied natural gas (LNG) carrier chartered by Gazprom Group successfully completed the world's first LNG supply via the Northern Sea Route (NSR). The carrier left the Port of Hammerfest (Norway) on November, 7 and arrived at the regasification terminal in the Port of Tobata (Japan) delivering a Gazprom Group-owned LNG cargo to Japanese consumers.
When sailing across the NSR between November, 9 and November, 18 the Ob River LNG carrier was escorted by Atomflot-owned atomic icebreakers led by two ice masters. During the first half of the voyage, between the Barents Sea and the Kara Sea, there was not much ice in the waters, but during the second half of the passage, from the Vilkitski Strait to the Bering Strait, the LNG carrier was headed through young ice with the thickness reaching 30 centimeters.
The voyage was accomplished safely and fully in accordance with schedule. The ultimate success was assured by professionalism of the Ob River's crew and high-level support of ice masters, captains and crews of the ice breakers “50 Years of Victory”, “Russia” and “Vaygach” as well as offshore personnel of Atomflot and the NSR Administration under the Federal Agency for Sea and Inland Water Transport (the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation).
On board the carrier there was a working group of the Krylov State Research Center and Sovcomflot. The experts were onboard for conducting R&D that featured ice navigation during intense ice formation in the Arctic Seas.
This time the LNG carrier was weighted – after the no-load trip from Japan to Europe made earlier in October this year. Two return passages of the Ob River LNG carrier via the NSR confirmed technical and economic feasibility of the NSR for international LNG shipments. High-class icebreaker support and vessels escort, reducing time for delivering cargos, fuel saving, reducing losses from LNG evaporation, increasing volumes of delivered gas, reducing CO2 emissions and mitigating risks of pirates attack during the voyage – these all together may be considered as an attractive and reliable solution for the LNG interregional trade, bearing in mind implementation of Russian gas liquefaction projects in the Arctic region.
The successful voyage of the Ob River LNG carrier can make it possible to supply Russian LNG to Asia-Pacific and the European market via the Northern Sea Route. The Northern Sea Route, or the North East Passage, is the marine route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean along the northern coastline of Siberia – from Novaya Zemlya to the Bering Strait. Modern icebreaker support allows for sailing of Ice Class superlarge vessels for 3 or 4 months during a year. This strategic route reduces trip time from northern Europe to northeast Asia at almost 40 per cent, comparing with the routes via the southern seas and oceans, i.e. the Suez Canal or the Panama Canal.
Built in 2007, the Ob River carrier is Ice Class 1A (Lloyd's Register) and ready for low-temperature operation. The carrier is operated by Dynagas, Greek shipping company. The carrier crew performed well during ice operations between 2009 and 2011 when the carrier was chartered by Gazprom Global LNG (wholly-owned subsidiary of Gazprom Marketing & Trading dealing with international trade and marine LNG shipment of Gazprom Group) within Sakhalin II, the first Russian project on LNG production, with Gazprom as the majority shareholder. There are Russian officers, graduates of Makarov State Maritime Academy among the members of the internationally diverse crew.