News review of the events on the NSR
#1 January 2021

1. Atomflot helped ship to get out of ice trap. Twice.

On January 8, Atomflot completed the operation to get out a ship “Sparta III”, which was blocked in the ice of the Yenisey Bay. Earlier, in mid-December, the ship and an icebreaking tug that supported the vessel could not continue the voyage along the laid channel in the Yenisey Bay due to the formed extensive hummocks. The thickness of the ice reached 70 cm, the press service of Atomflot reports.

The nuclear icebreaker “Vaygach” came to the rescue from the Ob Bay. It cut away “Sparta III”, renovated and expanded a previously laid canal, and then took the ship on a short tug. On December 27, the ships emerged from the hummocks and the operation was completed. But a day later, the movement stopped again – ice fields stood in the way, in addition, the steering control of the ship “Sparta III” was broken down. The icebreaking tug managed to get out on lighter ice and leave the area, while the ship again remained waiting for help.

On January 1, the icebreaker “Vaygach” and the diesel icebreaker “Admiral Makarov” (is under the operational control of Rosatomflot), approached the ship “Sparta III”. The nuclear icebreaker started laying the canal, and “Admiral Makarov” took it in tow. On January 2, the convoy set out on the lighter ice west of Beliy Island in the Kara Sea, and the job of “Vaygach” was done. The SAR vessel “Spasatel Karev” joined the icebreaker “Admiral Makarov”, and they continued to tow the ship.

On November 23 and November 27 Atomflot sent official requests to the captain of the ship “Sparta-3” to clarify why it was decided to change the route without permission, but no responses were received.

In order to sail via the Yenisey Bay “Sparta III” needed icebreaker support, and for this purpose the vessel operator hired “Kigoriak” icebreaking tug. However, it was not taken into account that independent sailing of the latter was permitted only until December 1, the head of Atomfolot, Mustafa Kashka, told TASS.

“The shipowner was aware that drawing the nuclear icebreaker away from work under contract obligations was risky. Despite this, “Sparta II” headed towards the port of Dudinka without permission, and put the fulfillment of its mission above the safety of navigation and the interests of other companies operating in the water area of the Northern Sea Route “, – concluded the head of Atomfolot.


2. China transported over 160 thousand tons of cargo along NSR in 2020

In 2020, ships under the Chinese flag made 8 voyages both ways along the Northern Sea Route and transported 163.7 thousand tons of cargo.

Information Agency “Sputnik” reports about this with reference to the data of the state corporation “Rosatom”, the head of the project “Northern Sea Route”.

The total volume of cargo transported along the Northern Sea Route amounted to 32.97 million tons in 2020. This is almost 1.5 million tons more than in 2019, when 31.5 million tons were transported.

The Russian government has set a goal to increase the volume of traffic along the Northern Sea Route to 80 million tons by 2024.


3. Early navigation begins on the Northern Sea Route

In February, NOVATEK and Rosatom will begin early icebreaker escorting of LNG tankers along the eastern sector of the Northern Sea Route, “Kommersant” reports.

Traditionally, navigation in the eastern sector of the NSR ends in December and begins in the second half of May. However, on January 12, NOVATEK has already dispatched two trial cargoes along this route without icebreaker support: on January 5, “Christophe de Margerie” tanker left the Sabetta port, followed by “Nikolay Evgenov” on the 6th of January. Tanker “Nikolay Zubov” is coming to meet them from Tianjin, China.

NOVATEK plans several more direct voyages to Asia this winter.

According to Rosatom, gas carriers are now making voyages without icebreaker assistance – Atomflot provides ships with information on ice and navigation conditions in the waters of the Northern Sea Route around the clock. But in the near future it will not be possible to do without icebreaker support, therefore, very early support of ships with the help of nuclear icebreakers in the eastern direction of the NSR is planned.

“Kommersant” reports that NOVATEK’s interest in high-risk and early voyages along the NSR is associated with a sharp rise in spot prices for LNG in Asia. For deliveries in mid-February, the prices exceeded $ 1100 per thousand cubic meters, which is four times more than in Europe. However, it is noted that NOVATEK does not have much free gas available for spot sales.

“In theory, the company can redirect to Asia part of the cargo under long-term contracts from Europe with the permission of customers who can buy gas in exchange from Gazprom, sharing with NOVATEK the profit from transactions in Asia. The fourth stage of Yamal LNG (capacity 0.9 million tons per year) is initially completely focused on the spot, but its launch is planned only for the first quarter of 2021”, “Kommersant” reports.


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