ST. PETERSBURG, November 21 (RIA Novosti) – A tanker accompanied by nuclear-powered ice breakers carried liquefied natural gas (LNG) along the Northern Sea Route for the first time in the history of Arctic navigation, said the press service of Rosatomflot (Russian Atomic Fleet) company owned by the Rosatom state corporation.
The Ob River tanker carried about 135,000 cubic meters of LNG, loaded at Hammerfest LNG terminal in Norway.
The tanker left Hammerfest on November 7 and was accompanied by the Vaigach and 50 Let Pobedy nuclear-powered icebreakers during its nine-day voyage along the Northern Sea Route. The tanker, which traveled in the Arctic at an average speed of 12.5 knots left the route on November 9 and is currently heading for the Japanese port of Tobata.
According to Viktor Olersky, Russia’s Deputy Transportation Minister, the LNG tanker’s voyage marked another stage in the development of the new high-latitude sea route linking Europe with Asia-Pacific countries.
He said that Russia, which owns the world’s largest fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers, opened a new page in the history of Arctic navigation.
“We proved the possibility of such voyages [of high-tonnage ships along the Northern Sea Route] and are not going to stop at this stage,” Olersky said.
He also said that experts will analyze data collected by Sovсomflot shipping company team during this experimental voyage in order to upgrade regulations of the Northern Sea Route navigation.
Transit navigation via the Northern Sea Route will be closed after November 20. The cargo traffic is expected to hit 1.2 million metric tons.
By November 2012, nuclear-powered icebreakers have accompanied more than 40 vessels travelling along the Northern Sea Route as compared to 34 vessels in 2011.
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Any response would likely boomerang on Russia – the partnership between Rosneft and ExxonMobil is a case in point. The United States has hit Russia with a third round of sanctions. This time the Americans went with a higher caliber weapon, targeting Russia’s biggest energy companies (Rosneft and Novatek) and banks (VEB and Gazprombank).