Slow start on the Northern Sea Route

Nine vessels have sailed Northern Sea Route in transit between Europe and Asia so far this summer. (Photo: Rosatomflot)

The promised record number of vessels using the Northern Sea Route between Europe and Asia seems to be somewhat delayed. In course of the two first months of sailing, only nine vessels of different types have taken the journey.


If the sailing season lasts as long as it did in 2011, there might still be time to break last year’s record of 34 vessels and 820.000 tons of cargo.

Nuclear-powered icebreakers have been escorting vessels in transit between Europe and Asia in convoys this summer, as opposed to earlier seasons, where they followed one ship at the time, a press release from the operator of Russia’s fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers Rosatomflot reads.

According to Rosatomflot, there have been nine vessels in transit on the Northern Sea Route (NSR) so far this summer. Here is a summary:

The first two vessels to sail the NSR this season were Murmansk Shipping Company’s tankers “Indiga” and “Varzuga”, who transported diesel.

The bulk carriers “Nordic Odyssey” and “Nordic Orion” sailed from Murmansk to ports in China with respectively 67.160 and 65.937 tons of iron ore concentrate for the company Evrokhim.

The tankers “Marilee” and “Palva” each transported 60.000 tons of gas condensate to South Korea for the company Novatek. 

The tanker “Stena Poseidon” was escorted from South Korea to Finland. It carried 66.416 tons of kerosene.

Also the tugboat “Vengeri” and the Chinese icebreaker “Xuelong” have been escorted along the NSR by Rosatomflot’s icebreakers.

Still time to break records
According to specialists, the ice situation on the Northern Sea Route this summer is on average. From the Kara Gate to the New Siberian Islands the vessels sail on clear water, but in the East Siberian Sea the ice situation is more difficult than last year. The journey took on average 11 days for the vessels that sailed the NSR in July, but in August no vessel has spent more than 9 days on the journey. The average speed in August was 12 knots.

2011 marked the longest sailing season on the NSR ever. When the last vessel reached the Pacific Ocean on November 18, the season had lasted a whole month longer than in the previous year. 

In 2011 34 vessels sailed the whole Northern Sea Route. The total cargo transported was 820.000 tons. By comparison, in 2010 only four vessels used the route for transit to another country, and the total amount of cargo was 111.000 tons, BarentsObserver reported.

Russian authorities had hoped that more than 1,5 million tons would be transported in 2012.