Monday, October 5, 2009

Northern Sea Route Has Ramifications For Asian European Trade

North East Passage can Generate More than Financial Benefits
Shipping News Feature

ASIA – EUROPE – The story in the Handy Shipping Guide on the 2nd October outlined the potential political problems which arise with the recent transit of two German vessels utilising the recently navigable North East Passage, only possible because of the effects of global warming.

The story however has further ramifications for the future of maritime trade, with the time and cost of using the waterway on the Asian – European route being the major factor. The initial voyage of the MV “Beluga Fraternity” and the MV “Beluga Foresight” which concluded offloading successfully in Siberia in September then reloading steel pipework in Archangel for Nigeria, is estimated to have saved €300,000 for each vessel, and the ships owners conclude that their multipurpose heavy lift project carriers of the new Beluga P-class with 800 to 1400 tons crane capacities may save twice this figure.

The Beluga Shipping GmbH, who own the two ships, base their estimates on reductions in bunker costs, 200 tonnes of fuel per vessel, plus savings on overheads in reduced transit times. The journey involved on the recent 8,000 mile voyage from Korea saved 3,000 miles over the normal routing. In addition, environmentally harmful emissions are also cut down by sailing the “short cut”.

Although there are undoubted dangers on the route, there is one peril which up to now, the icy waters do not harbour – pirates. By transiting via the passage, ships travel East from Asia and swing up toward the top of the world. They pass the North Russian shore through the Bering Sea, the Bering Strait, the Laptev Sea, the Vilkizki Strait and the Kara Sea.

This route means the hazards of robbery on the high seas at possibly the two most dangerous spots on the globe – the Straits of Sumatra and the Gulf of Aden – are simply avoided. The voyage can then continue West into European waters.

Beluga are certain that they have discovered the route of the future. The company, which specializes in super heavy lift vessels, are already taking bookings for the six to eight weeks when the waterway will be navigable in 2010. They are planning a convoy of as many as six ships to undertake the journey and have ordered new larger vessels for the purpose.

The company can claim to be truly innovative in its approach to all its works. To plan the assault on the Arctic they initiated a full scale investigation including the use of satellite photography, equipping ice hardened vessels, an in house meteorological team and approaches to Russian authorities for permits and assistance. In addition, with the environment and economies of the future in mind, they built a ship MV “Beluga Skysails” to test and utilise a towing kite system as a auxilary propulsion.

Pic: MV “Beluga Skysails” off Las Palmas loaded with wind generating plant.