A Russian Arctic LNG shipment started its voyage through the Northern Sea Route (NSR) to Asia, indicating the launch of summer navigation as sea ice melts creating a short-cut to the world’s biggest LNG market.
Novatek's Yamal LNG plant started exporting in December, but cargoes have not sailed to Europe. From there, LNG was transferred on Asia via the Suez Canal or else sold and used in Europe at a time when the NSR was closed.
Now, the 'Vladimir Rusanov' LNG tanker marked the plant’s first shipment through the NSR, Reuters reports. The NSR is crucial for Yamal LNG, and it generally opens from June until November. However, extreme conditions this year have postponed the deliveries.
NSR is vital to Yamal because it reduces shipping times to its customers in Asia by nearly half. As a result it saves time and Suez Canal fees on the westward route.
Another LNG tanker, Christoph de Margerie, sailed the NSR last year before the opening of the plant, carrying a cargo from Equinor’s Snoehvit LNG plant in the Barents Sea. This was the first LNG tanker to sail through the NSR without an ice-breaker support vessel.
Back in November 2012, Gazprom’s Ob River LNG carrier had also tested the route carrying a Norwegian cargo to Japan. At that time the vessel was supported by two atomic ice-breakers.