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Icebreaking LNG carrier crosses Arctic Northern Sea Route

28 August 2017

On 16 August 2017, the icebreaking LNG tanker Christophe de Margerie 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 transit of 6 and a half days. The total time of the voyage from Hammerfest in Norway to the port of Boryeong in South Korea was 19 days, about 30% faster than the regular southern route through the Suez Canal.

Christophe de Margerie—owned and operated by Russia’s Sovcomflot (SCF Group)—has also become the world’s first merchant vessel to travel the full length of the NSR without an icebreaker escort.

The record-setting voyage of the LNG carrier covered 2,193 nautical miles (4,060 km) from Cape Zhelaniya of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago to Cape Dezhnev at Chukotka, Russia’s easternmost continental point. In some areas during the passage, the ship had to sail through ice fields 1.2 meters thick. The average speed of the ship exceeded 14 knots.

Christophe de Margerie is the first of a series of 15 icebreaking LNG tankers ordered by the SCF Group to take advantage of the diminishing Arctic sea ice cover and deliver gas from a new facility on the Yamal Peninsula in Northern Russia, the biggest Arctic LNG project. The vessels are built in South Korea by the Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME).

The LNG tanker has an overall length of 299 m, a width of 50 m, and a deadweight of 80,200 tonnes, according to ship-technology.com. The vessel is capable of carrying 172,600 m3 of cargo.

The ship is powered by a diesel-electric propulsion system utilizing four 12-cylinder and two nine-cylinder Wärtsilä 50DF four-stroke diesel engines, with a combined power output of 64.35 MW. The nine-cylinder 50DF engine has a rated power of 8,550 kW, while the 12-cylinder variant is rated at 11,400 kW. The Wärtsilä 50DF engines can run on light or heavy fuel oils, as well as on LNG.

Three Azipod propulsion units, which can rotate through 360°, are installed to power the vessel in arctic conditions. Each Azipod unit, rated at 15 MW, is coupled to a rudder propeller.

The Christophe de Margerie-class LNG carriers can sail at a speed of 19.5 knots in open seas and at 5 knots in 1.5 m-thick ice. The vessels are capable of navigating independently through 2.1 m thick ice and 15 m high waves, as well as turning 180° using the Azipod propulsion units. They can withstand temperatures of -50°C when operating in the Arctic.

The LNG carrier has been named after Christophe de Margerie, the former CEO of Total, who played a key role in developing the investment decisions behind, and a technological basis for the Yamal LNG project.

In 2013, the busiest year of the Northern Sea Route, there were only 15 international crossings, but cargo along this route will grow tenfold by 2020, according to Russian predictions. The increased shipping poses significant risks to the Arctic natural environment. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has recently agreed to start working on the development of measures to reduce risks from the use of heavy fuel oil (HFO) fuel by ships in Arctic waters. A possible outcome from this work could be a total ban on the use of HFO fuels by ships in the Arctic waters. The use and carriage of heavy fuel oil is banned in Antarctic waters under the IMO MARPOL convention.

Source: Sovcomflot