Barents oil shipment down

Belokamenka oil tanker is today used as a floating oil terminal providing tankers from Barents Russia with oil to the European market. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Less than 11 million tons of oil products were shipped from Barents Russia around Norway’s northern coast in 2012, down 10 percent. The down going trend will not last long.


Oil shipments from Nenets, Arkhangelsk and Murmansk regions in northwestern Russia to the European markets continue to drop for the second year in a row. While 14,8 million tons were sailed with tankers through the Barents Sea in 2010, it dropped to 11,9 tons in 2011 and 11 million tons last year.

The amount of oil is down, but the numbers of vessels grow by 10 percent to 301, nearly one tanker per day, shows the statistics provided to BarentsObserver by the Norwegian Coastal Administration’s Vessel Traffic Service in Vardø.

The traffic center is located on Norway’s easternmost point to Russia and has a panorama view of all voyages along the coast. They have a special focus on risk transports, like oil.

2012 was the first year when oil tankers from Asia to Europe used the transit lane along Russia’s northern coast. Three vessels transported aircraft fuel from South Korea to Finland via the Northern Sea Route and a LNG tanker sailed the opposite route, from Hammerfest to Japan.

Still, most of the oil products come from Murmansk where it has been reloaded, either from rail-wagons to tankers or ship-to-ship reloading. The last includes the smaller ice-classed tankers coming from the Varandey terminal in Nenets Autonomous Okrug. 

As BarentsObserver reported last year, the Varandey terminal exported less oil than earlier expected due to less production from the Yuzhno-Khylchuyu fields. Export is expected to boost again as soon as new fields are connected to the terminal. Also oil export from Murmansk will boost when new terminals are built and existing ones expanded.

Total capacity could reach 100 million tons annually if all planned oil terminals in Barents Russia and northern Norway are built, according to a report published by Akvaplan-Niva.

A third factor believed to result in more oil with tankers through the Barents Sea and further down the coast to Europe is longer sailing seasons along the Northern Sea Route. Arctic sea ice shrinks and more shipping companies get used to this new oil route across the top of the planet.