Christophe de Margerie, the icebreaking LNG carrier owned and operated by Sovcomflot (SCF Group), has crossed the Northern Sea Route (NSR) in a new record time, for a merchant ship without icebreaker support, during the month of July. The vessel covered the distance of 2,360 nautical miles eastward, from the port of Sabetta (Yamal Peninsula) to Cape Dezhnev (the Bering Strait), in just seven days and 17 hours. Throughout the NSR passage, the vessel navigated independently without any icebreaker support. Her average speed during the NSR crossing was an impressive 12.8 knots.
Sovcomflot’s LNGC set this new record while delivering a cargo of liquefied natural gas from the Yamal LNG plant at Sabetta to the port of Tangshan, China. On 31 July, the vessel successfully berthed at her destination port. In total, it took her 18.5 days to travel from Sabetta to China.
The rapid and safe passage along the Northern Sea Route eastward from Yamal once again confirmed the economic efficiency of this route. This completed voyage also represents the beginning of regular shipments of LNG along the NSR from Russia’s Arctic gas fields to the countries of Asia Pacific.
Igor Tonkovidov, Executive Vice President and COO/CTO of SCF Group, said:
“This remarkable, safe passage across the NSR has required the crew’s utmost attention and concentration. Ice conditions along the route were severe, especially in the East Siberian Sea, and the vessel experienced navigation in extended periods of limited visibility. The navigational and hydrographic situation within Arctic regions remains as challenging as ever.
“The crew of Christophe de Margerie was able to maintain a rapid yet safe speed for the tanker through effective organisation of bridge watch-keeping, highly skilled navigation, slowing the ship when approaching challenging ice fields and passing them at a safe speed, and moving reasonably quicker in areas of reduced ice cover.”
Christophe de Margerie is the first in a series of 15 icebreaking LNG carriers ordered for the Yamal LNG, to transport LNG year-round in the challenging ice conditions of the Kara Sea and Gulf of Ob. When completed, she became the world’s first icebreaking LNG carrier. Her cargo capacity is 172,600 cubic metres.
The vessel has excellent manoeuvring and icebreaking capabilities. She can sail independently through ice of up to 2.1 metres thick. Meanwhile, her propulsion system has a power capacity of 45 MW, which is comparable to that of a nuclear-powered icebreaker.
She can sail unassisted along the NSR westward from Yamal all year-round, and eastward for six months of the year (from July to December). Previously, the summer navigation window in the eastern area of the Northern Sea Route was limited to only four months with icebreaker support.
The all-Russian crew numbers 29, including 13 officers. Each officer has significant Arctic shipping experience (Sovcomflot has been training its seafarers to operate LNG carriers in challenging ice conditions since 2008) and has undergone extensive additional training at the SCF training centre in St. Petersburg.
Her unmatched characteristics paved the way for her recognition by the global energy industry experts: in December 2017, Christophe de Margerie won the award for Engineering Project of the Year at the 2017 S&P Global Platts Global Energy Awards.
In March 2018, by a decree of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, a group of seafaring and onshore personnel from Sovcomflot received Russian government awards for their major contribution to the creation of the vessel.