Record number of vessels pass through the Northern Sea Route in 2012

November 26, 2012

As the 2012 navigation season on the Northern Sea Route is coming to an end, never before have so many vessels taken the Arctic shortcut between Europe and Asia, and never before has so much cargo been transported along the route, reports the Barents Observer.

Although the season is not yet completely over, there has already been a tenfold increase in the number of vessels using the route during the last two years. This season 46 vessels sailed the route, compared to 34 in 2011 and only four in 2010.

The total cargo transported through the route this year reached 1 261 545 tons, a 53 percent increase from 2011.

Petroleum products constituted the largest cargo group. A total of 894 079 tons of diesel fuel, gas condensate, jet fuel, LNG and other petrol products has been transported on 26 vessels in 2012. 18 of the tankers sailed from west to east, eight in the opposite direction. There have been no super tankers on the NSR this season – the largest tanker was the Norwegian “Marika”, which transported 66 552 tons of jet fuel from Korea to Finland in August.

LNG was also transported through the Northern Sea Route for the first time this year.  The tanker “Ob River” transported 66 342 tons (134 738 m³) from Statoil’s gas plant in Hammerfest to Tobata in Japan. The vessel spent nine days transiting from the Kara Gate on November 9 to Cape Dezhnev on November 18.

Hammerfest is the world’s northernmost LNG plant and it's remote location could have been a disadvantage when searching for new customers. But with rapid melting sea ice, Hammerfest LNG is located at the entrance gate for the new shipping route to the energy hungry markets in Asia. The distance to Japan is nearly via the Northern Sea Route takes nearly half the time of sailing the more traditional Suez Canal route. The Northern Sea Route is estimated to save up to 20 days for the distance from Hammerfest to Japan.

Copyright 2012, Barents Observer. All rights reserved.