Robert HARNEIS –TDO- (FRANCE) - Russian Insider has reported that two ice breaker type LNG tankers have for the first time successfully completed the Artic passage in winter.

The 214 meter long Boris Sokolov arrived in Murmansk after a 6-week voyage from Nansha, China. The new-built vessel left the Chinese Guangzhou Shipyard on the 11th December and set course towards the north. It was quickly joined by new LNG carrier «Boris Davydov», a ship constructed at the Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) yard in South Korea.

A few days later, the two ships sailed together through the Bering Strait and into the Chukchi Sea. The ships subsequently broke their way through the East Siberian Sea, the Laptev Sea and later into the Kara Sea.

When entering the Kara Sea, the «Boris Davydov» set course for Sabetta, while the «Boris Sokolov» proceeded towards Murmansk.

It was the first voyage of its kind. There is thick ice in major parts of the Northern Sea Route, and especially in the eastern part of the area. Data from the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Institute show that practically the whole East Siberian Sea is covered by up to two meter thick one-year ice as well as older more solid ice. Also the Laptev Sea and the northeastern parts of the Kara Sea have thick ice layers.

Both the «Boris Sokolov» and the «Boris Davydov» are Arc7 ice class and are able to break through about two meter thick ice layers.

According to Aker Arctic, the Finnish ship design company, the «Boris Sokolov» will be used primarily to transport gas condensate from Sabetta LNG terminal to customers in Europe and Asia. It can also be used as a regular oil tanker.

The unprecedented voyages have considerable economic implications. Cargo shipping in Russia’s northernmost territorial waters has already increased by more than four times since 2013, according to Aleksandr Kalashnikov, the department head at the Northern Sea Route Administration.

The volume of cargo transported through the route totaled 13 million tons as of October 1 2018 marking a significant increase against three million tons shipped five years ago, according to Kalashnikov, who heads the navigational, hydrographic, and hydro-meteorological department.

The first east-to-west voyage through the Northern Sea Route was carried out in 1915 by the expedition led by Russian hydrographer and surveyor Boris Vilkitskiy.

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