Through the Laptev Sea without icebreaker

Cargo vessel "Atmoda" following the nuclear icebreaker "Taymyr" through the eastern parts of NSR. (Photo from Laskardis Shipping Company)

After a warm July the extent of sea ice large parts of the Northern Sea Route is below average and vessels are sailing parts of the route without icebreaker escort.


The Panama-registered cargo vessel «Atmoda» is currently sailing ballast from South Korea to Greenland through the Northern Sea Route (NSR). It was escorted by nuclear icebreaker “Taymyr” on the eastern parts of the route but is now sailing on its own through the Laptev Sea, Peter Pontikos from the vessel’s ship owner Laskardis Shipping Company says to BarentsObserver.

The vessel was advised by Atomflot to sail north of the New Siberian Islands; a route that was first used in 2011 and shortens the journey between Asia and Europe even more.

“Atmoda” will rendezvous with the nuclear icebreaker “Vaygach” by the Vilkitsky Strait between Severnaya Zemlya and the mainland and be escorted to the Kara Gate, Pontikos says, and adds that the services provided by the Russian icebreaker fleet have been excellent. “Rosatomflot is a very professional, proactive and cooperative state organization”.

“It’s no problem to send vessels through ice-free parts of the Northern Sea Route without icebreaker escort”, Head of the NSR Information Office Sergey Balmasov says to BarentsObserver. “In this case [with “Atmoda”] the vessel has contact with the icebreakers and is still under their control”.

Balmasov explains that constant contact with a nuclear icebreaker is essential for a safe voyage through the Arctic, considering the remoteness of the route and the distance to search and rescue facilities.

According to the latest data from the National Snow & Ice Data Center, the Arctic sea ica extent retreated fairly rapidly through the first two weeks of July. Ice extent remains below average on the Atlantic side of the Arctic, including the East Greenland, Kara and Laptev seas, and Baffin Bay.