Russia has for the first time authorized a Liquefied Natural Gas tanker to sail through its Arctic waters from Europe to high-demand Asian markets, a route that requires about half the usual sailing time, potentially reduces costs and avoids the threat from Somali pirates.Russia authorized the tanker Ribera del Duera Knutsen to sail along the Northern sea route from the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific ocean, Norwegian shipping company Knutsen OAS Shipping said.
In September, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that he sees the future of the Northeast Passage “as that of an international transport artery” able to compete with other maritime routes on both fees, safety and quality.
From Europe, the route is a much shorter way to the Far East than sailing across the Mediterranean Sea and through the Suez Canal, which requires ships to sail through the ‘pirate alley’ in the Gulf of Aden north of Somalia.
It would save a lot of time and money, Knutsen’s Chartering Manager John Einar Dalsvag said, as current LNG rates are at a very high level of about $150,000 a day, so “days are expensive.”
Using the shorter Northern route means sailing in icy Arctic waters from the Barents Sea along Siberia to the Bering Strait, then on to Japan or other countries in the Far East.
Japan’s demand for LNG has climbed sharply after an earthquake and a tsunami knocked out several nuclear power plants in 2011.
In December, only seven out of Japan’s 54 nuclear power plants were in operation because of safety concerns.
Electricity production has largely been replaced by thermal power plants.