LNG Tanker Attempts First Winter Arctic Crossing

From BBC

By Matt McGrath

A large tanker carrying liquified natural gas (LNG) is set to become the first ship of its type to sail across the Arctic.

The carrier, Ob River, left Norway in November and has sailed north of Russia on its way to Japan.

The specially equipped tanker is due to arrive in early December and will shave 20 days off the journey.

The owners say that changing climate conditions and a volatile gas market make the Arctic transit profitable.

Long-term preparation

Built in 2007 with a strengthened hull, the Ob River can carry up to 150,000 cubic metres of gas. The tanker was loaded with LNG at Hammerfest in the north of Norway on 7 November and set sail across the Barents Sea. It has been accompanied by a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker for much of its voyage.

The ship, with an international crew of 40, has been chartered from its Greek owners Dynagas by the Russian Gazprom energy giant. It says it has been preparing for the trip for over a year.

“It’s an extraordinarily interesting adventure,” Tony Lauritzen, commercial director at Dynagas, told BBC News.

“The people on board have been seeing polar bears on the route. We’ve had the plans for a long time and everything has gone well.”

Mr Lauritzen says that a key factor in the decision to use the northern route was the recent scientific record on melting in the Arctic.

“We have studied lots of observation data – there is an observable trend that the ice conditions are becoming more and more favourable for transiting this route. You are able to reach a highly profitable market by saving 40% of the distance, that’s 40% less fuel used as well.”

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