August 26, 2010
Bulker set for historic Northern Sea Route voyage
Early next month, the 1995-built, 43,731dwt bulk carrier MV NORDIC BARENTS will start a historic voyage. The ship be the first bulker not flying the Russian flag to use the Northern Sea Route as a transit trade lane to carry iron ore from the Northern part of Norway to China via Arctic and Russian waters. The historic transit is about one third shorter than traditional shipping routes and will save time, fuel -- and CO2.
That last savings might seem a little ironic in that CO2 is seen by the scientific establishment as a prime cause of the global warming that is now opening up Arctic waters for longer each year. That phenomenon has generated a lot of speculation about the possibilties of using the Northwest Passage. But it seems that the Northern Sea Route (sometimes called the Northeast Passage) could become a viable commercial route first.
Owned by Investerings gruppen Danmark and operated by Nordic Bulk Carriers, the 190 m NORDIC BARENTS is built to Ice class 1a and has a 16,000 bhp main propulsion plant The ship will load 41,000 tons of iron ore concentrate at the port of Kirkenes in Northern Norway before setting course for China.
Tschudi Shipping Company through its subsidiary Tschudi Arctic Transit and Nordic Bulk Carriers, working with Russian maritime authorities, are the leading pioneers in the Nordic-Russian partnership involved in this voyage and has further plans to utilize the historic northern route.
"We are very excited about the opportunities the NSR will generate," says Felix H. Tschudi, Chairman of Norway's Tschudi Shipping Company and the largest shareholder in Northern Iron, the Australian ASX listed owner of the Sydvaranger iron ore mine. "It has been our ambition for years, so we are very happy to finally have the opportunity to do this voyage. The Northern Sea Route can be of great importance for the companies in northern Scandinavia and on the Kola Peninsula which ship oil, gas, minerals and other raw materials to the increasingly important Asian markets."
The Northern Sea Route to China across the Arctic is shorter than routes through the Suez Canal. According to the partners, the route has the potential to generate significant savings for both cargo and ship owners, and in addition during this voyage there is no threat of piracy.
Nordic Bulk Managing Director Christian Bonfils, explains that, as the route shortens the distance to China by about one third, "this results in a significant reduction in fuel consumption and transportation time - and it also means much lower CO2 emissions. The fuels savings alone add up to approximately $180,000."
He says the route opens up opportunities both for the mining industry and for Nordic Bulk Carriers.
"We are specialized in operating ice classed bulk carriers," he says, "and when we entered into a strategic cooperation with the owners of these specialized ships we quickly saw the unique potential of the ships."
Russia's Northern Sea Route Administration under the Ministry of Transportation and Rosatomflot, the operator of the Russian national icebreaking fleet, have given the project their first-ever approval for a foreign flagged vessel to ship a cargo in transit from a foreign port to a foreign port through Russian waters.
"This is an historic moment. In addition to opening a shorter pathway to China, the route will further strengthen the good and important cooperation between the Nordic countries and Russia. We will hopefully see new shipping and trade opportunities in this very important region," says Kristin Omholt-Jensen, Managing Director of the Center for High North Logistics (CHNL), an international non profit organization. CHNL which is co-sponsored by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has played an important role in facilitating the project.
"An exciting and challenging aspect of the project has been the large number of parties involved to realize this first voyage including insurance companies, ship brokers and the trading company Prominvest which is buying the cargo from the mine and selling it to Chinese end users," says Kristin Omholt-Jensen
Russian icebreakers operated by Rosatomflot will escort MV NORDIC BARENTS on its journey.
"We will follow the MV NORDIC BARENTS expedition closely and with great interest. In addition to the business potential of the Northern Sea Route, this expedition once again emphasizes the strength, quality and long history of the Nordic maritime traditions. We are of course also very proud that a Danish and a Norwegian company in close cooperation with the Russian authorities are the pioneers behind this voyage of discovery," says Jan Fritz Hansen, vice president of the Danish Shipowners' Association.
The trip across the Arctic is a challenging task that requires great experience and navigational skills. In cooperation with the Russians, the expedition will help build critical expertise and experience in navigating these demanding waters.
"MV NORDIC BARENTS is an ice-class 1a ship," explains Christian Bonfils, managing director at Nordic Bulk, the ship's commercial operator. "This is the highest conventional ice-class, and it was the only ship classification that the Russian authorities would allow to perform this transit. We are pleased that parties from three traditional seafaring nations made the transit possible through extraordinary commitment from all involved parties especially Tschudi Shipping, CHNL and Rosatomflot."
The parties estimate that the Northern Sea Route will be open for transit voyages for two to four months per year during the early autumn.