Record long Arctic navigation season

When the oil-tanker “Perseverance” sailed through the Bering Strait this morning it marked the end of the longest Northern Sea Route season ever.


Sailing season along the entire Arctic coast of Siberia became one month longer than the 2010 season. Shipping companies take advantage of the shrinking ice cap as global warming speeds up.

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The Belgium owned “Perseverance” opened the sailing season when it left Murmansk on June 29th and sailed the Northern Sea Route (NSR) towards China. The tanker also became the vessel to end this year’s season, when it today sailed into the Pacific Ocean loaded with 60.000 tons of stable gas condensate for Russia’s private oil company NOVATEK, reports

The tanker was escorted by a nuclear powered icebreaker from Murmansk.

Eight times more oil
During the five months sailing season this year, nine large tankers with a total of 600.000 tons of gas condensate from NOVATEK have sailed the Northern Sea Route. That is more than eight times more oil than during the 2010 season.

In addition, several other tankers have sailed the route, includingvessels from Sovkomflot and Murmansk Shipping Company. In August, the first ever Suexmaz tanker, the “Vladimir Tikhonov” sailed the Arctic route in transit from Honningsvåg in northern Norway to Thailand. The super-tanker was loaded with 120.000 tons of gas condensate.

The reason why larger oil tankers could sail the Northern Sea Route this season is because the waters north of the North Siberian Islands have been without pack-ice. Here, the waters are deeper than closer to the coast and vessels with deeper draught can sail.

Reloading in Murmansk
Most of the oil that has been shipped along the Northern Sea Route this season comes from Murmansk. Oil is transported to the port of Murmansk by railway from western Siberia or smaller tankers from Varandei or Vitino oil terminals in the Russian north.

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NOVATEK is currently developing the Yamal LNG project and says larger LNG tankers from Yamal will use the Northern Sea Route for gas export to the markets in the Asian-Pacific region.

In addition to oil and gas, the general cargo transport along the Northern Sea Route is expected to skyrock in the summer season in the course of the next decade. BarentsObserver reported earlier this summer that Russia’s Ministry of Transport believes cargo transport through the NSR will increase from 1,8 million tons in 2010 to 64 million tons by 2020.

Key global transport route
At a Arctic conference in Arkhangelsk in September, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin outlined Russia’s ambitions for the NSR. – It is our intention to turn the Northern Sea Route into a key transport route of global importance, Putin said quoted by BarentsObserver.