Ice-Class LNG Carrier ‘Christophe de Margerie’ Starts Maiden Voyage Through Northern Sea Route

File photo: The ice-class ARC7 LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie during sea trials.

The ice-class LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie has entered the Arctic’s Kara Sea marking the official start of its maiden voyage through the Northern Sea Route as part of its unescorted voyage from Norway to South Korea, the Yamal LNG project said Tuesday.

Delivered last November by South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding Marine Engineering, Christophe de Margerie is the first out of 15 ice-class tankers, each with the capacity to transport 170,000 cubic meters of LNG, that will eventually be used to transport gas from the Yamal LNG plant in the Russian Arctic, which is scheduled to start production later this year.

The 80,000 dwt vessel is designated ice-class Arc7, the highest rating among existing marine transport vessels, with the ability to break ice up to 2.5 meters thick. The capability means the Christophe de Margerie can be used for year-round navigation through the NSR in the westbound direction without the escort of icebreakers. Heading eastbound, the vessel is capable for summer season navigation.

“The utilization of the route from Europe to Eastern and South-Eastern Asia through the NSR halves the transportation time to market compared to the traditional route,” Yamal LNG said in a press release. “The start of LNG shipments through the NSR with the ARC7 ice-class tanker will help to increase cargo turnovers and develop navigation in Arctic Ocean.”

Related: Ice-Class LNG Tanker Forges Path for Arctic Shipping Super-Highway

Christophe de Margerie spent the first part of 2017 making its way to Zeebrugge, Belgium before departing for a series of ice trials prior to its final delivery in March to Russia’s state-owned shipping company Sovcomflot.

Sovcomflot estimates that the Christophe de Margerie will transport the first gas Yamal LNG as early as this October. Cargoes from project are set to be exported on the Arc7 fleet to Asia via the Northern Sea Route from May and November. In the winter months, LNG will be transhipped into conventional shuttle LNG carriers in Northern Europe for shipment on non-Arctic routes.

Four more of these vessels are due to be delivered this year.

Once at full capacity, Yamal will be able to produce 16.5 million metric tons of LNG per year. Partners in the project are Russia’s Novatek (50.1%), Total (20%), China National Petroleum Corporation (20%) and the Silk Road Fund (9.9%).