”MV Nordic Barents” makes historic voyage

The ice-classed bulk carrier MV Nordic Barents will sail across the Arctic with iron-ore consentrate from Kirkens to China.

For the first time ever, a bulk carrier with non-Russian flag is using the Northern Sea Route as a transit trade lane, when transporting iron ore from the Northern Norway to China via Arctic and Russian waters.


The historic transit is about one third shorter than traditional shipping routes. A strong Nordic-Russian partnership is behind this business adventure.

The international shipping industry will witness the historic event, when the vessel departs from the port of Kirkenes in Northern Norway within the next few weeks. BarentsObserver could already in July report about the planned shipping of iron ore concentrate from Kirkenes to China via the Arctic, and today it is confirmed that the deal on shipping will actually take place.

Russian authorities, the Northern Sea Route Administration under the Ministry of Transportation and Rosatomflot, the operator of the Russian national icebreaking fleet, have given the project their first-ever approval for a foreign flagged vessel to ship a cargo in transit from a foreign port to a foreign port through Russian waters.

One of the world’s few modern heavy ice-class bulk carriers - “MV NORDIC BARENTS” - will carry the 41,000 tons load from the port near the Norwegian mine in Kirkenes around the top of the world to Asia.

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“MV NORDIC BARENTS” is an ice-class 1a ship. This is the highest conventional ice-class, and the partners in the project confirm to BarentsObserver that it was the only ship classification that the Russian authorities would allow for this transit.

Russian icebreakers operated by Rosatomflot will escort MV NORDIC BARENTS on its journey along the Northern Sea Route, in Europe also known as the North East Passage.

The trip across the Arctic is a challenging task that requires great experience and navigational skills. In cooperation with the Russians, the expedition will help build critical expertise and experience in navigating these demanding waters. Never before has a non-Russian bulk carrier sail all along this route.

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It is the Norwegian Tschudi Shipping Company through its subsidiary Tschudi Arctic Transit and the Danish shipping company Nordic Bulk Carriers that together with Russian maritime authorities have worked in partnership to open the Northern Sea Route for the bulk carrier that will sail from Kirkenes soon.

- We are very excited about the opportunities the NSR will generate, says Felix H. Tschudi to BarentsObserver. Tschudi is Chairman of the Norwegian Tschudi Shipping Company and the largest shareholder of Northern Iron, the Australian ASX listed owner of the Sydvaranger iron ore mine.

See photos from: Sydvaranger iron-ore mines and harbor

- It has been our ambition for years, so we are very happy to finally have the opportunity to do this voyage. The Northern Sea Route can be of great importance for the companies in northern Scandinavia and on the Kola Peninsula which ship oil, gas, minerals and other raw materials to the increasingly important Asian markets, says Felix H. Tschudi.

According to the partners, the route has the potential to generate significant savings for both cargo and ship owners, and in addition during this voyage there is no threat of piracy.

Managing director in Nordic Bulk, Christian Bonfils, explains. - The Northern Sea Route shortens the distance to China by about one third, he says.

- This results in a significant reduction in fuel consumption and transportation time – and it also means much lower CO2 emissions. The fuels savings alone add up to approximately USD 180,000. Not only does this route open up opportunities for the mining industry, but also for Nordic Bulk Carriers; we are specialized in operating ice classed bulk carriers, and when we entered into a strategic cooperation with the owners of these specialized ships we quickly saw the unique potential of the ships. We are proud to be a partner in this project which emphasises our position as leading within this segment, says Christian Bonfils.

This year’s shipment will most likely be followed by more in the years to come. Due to the global warming, the icecap in the Arctic is retreating. 

The shipping partners estimate that the Northern Sea Route will be open for transit voyages for two to four months per year during the early autumn.

Read more BarentsObserver articles about the 2010 sailing season along the Northern Sea Route in the links under.