14 September 2013

More Bulk Freight Traverses the Arctic Ocean as Shipping Line Confidence Builds  

Northern Sea Route now Seeing a Steady Increase in Trade

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SWEDEN – FINLAND – ARCTIC – KOREA – WORLDWIDE – Following the recent successful voyage of the Cosco’s multi-purpose freight vessel, Yong Sheng, through the Northern Sea Route, tanker shipping company Stena Bulk and Hyundai group’s shipping arm Hyundai Glovis, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding which will see the two firms collaborate in moving freight via the North East Passage.

The Concordia Maritime owned 65,000 dwt P-MAX tanker (ice class 1A), Stena Polaris, will leave Ust Luga in the Gulf of Finland on 15 September, travelling in the opposite direction to the earlier Chinese voyage, with a cargo of 37,000 tonnes of naphtha which petrochemical outfit Yeochun Naphtha Cracking Center (YNCC) is importing from Russian natural gas producer Novatek. The voyage is expected to take 28 days with the tanker arriving at the Port of Gwangyang, South Korea, in mid-October. Erik Hånell, President and CEO of Stena Bulk said:

“We see the voyage with the Stena Polaris as the beginning of a long and far-reaching collaboration with Hyundai Glovis where we together will invest in different types of transportation of which voyages via the North East Passage are one part. Like many others, we feel that there could be a commercial break-through in the near future, although there are still a number of challenges to be overcome before this can take place on a large scale.”

According to Stena Bulk, so far this year a total of more than 270 ships have been given permission to sail through the North East Passage, but not all will do so. Stena Bulk estimates that the total volume of cargo transported via the Arctic Ocean will probably be five times more than in 2012 when a total of approximately 1.3 million tonnes was transported, itself a 53% increase over 2011. The company estimates that this figure will rise to 1.5 million tons this year and to as much as 15 million tons by 2021.

As a result of the collaboration between Stena Bulk and Concordia Maritime with Finnish Neste Oil as a customer, thus far their tankers have sailed eight times through the North East Passage and today the companies together have a total of eight tankers with the right classification for a voyage along the route.

There are a limited number of tankers that are equipped to sail through the North East Passage and operating in extreme Arctic conditions requires know-how and experience. Well-equipped vessels together with highly experienced crews are the only way to master Arctic conditions meaning only a relatively limited number of vessels are currently able to sail through these waters.

The P-MAX tankers, designed and built by Stena, have a double hull, optimum corrosion control, two engine rooms with full water and fire integrity and two propulsion systems. Manoeuvrability and an integrated bridge layout are also very important when it comes to facilitating safe navigation in narrow channels.

In other Arctic shipping news, Canada is stepping up surveillance of maritime activities around its coastal regions with plans to build and launch a three-satellite configuration that will monitor the Canadian coast. As we made mention of in our previous article, Canada has in the past had trouble with unexpected visitors when the Chinese icebreaker Xuě Lóng appeared at the Canadian coastal village of Tuktoyaktuk in 1999 and there is a long standing dispute, particularly with Russia, as to who owns what in terms of sea room in the region. With a continent built largely of ice the shifting borders will always seemingly prove politically contentious.

Now, the Canadian Space Agency’s satellite surveillance project, named Radarsat Constellation, will aim to eliminate any surprises that might be in store for Canada from the Arctic region but they’ll have to wait until 2018 when the equipment will actually be launched and take up station in orbit.

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