Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Container Shipping Line Completes Arctic Voyage via Northern Sea Route  

Ice Class Vessel Used as Trial for Alternative Ocean Freight Option

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Shipping News Feature ARCTIC – Last week the world's largest container shipping line, Maersk, completed its trial crossing using the Northern Sea Route after its 3,596 TEU ice-class box carrying vessel, the Venta Maersk, called at the Port of Saint Petersburg in Russia, on September 28. The voyage prompted some comments from the environmental lobby as melting ice and technological advances see the traditional ocean freight routes extended.

The Venta Maersk embarked on her voyage on August 22 from the port of Vladivostok, Russia. The route included further stops at the Vostochny Stevedoring Company and Busan, South Korea before passing through Bering Strait on September 6 on her way to Bremerhaven, Germany, carrying 660 reefer containers. Chief Technical Officer at Maersk, Palle Laursen, commented:

“We are very happy to welcome back crew and vessel safe and sound after this unique voyage. The trial allowed us to gain exceptional operational experience, test vessel systems, crew capabilities and the functionality of the shore based support setup.”

Maersk says that the voyage went according to plan and without specific incidents. The vessel and all systems aboard performed well in the unfamiliar environment. While the passage is feasible around this time of the year and marked by a lack of obstructive ice, ice conditions in the East Siberian Sea still required assistance by icebreakers.

Maersk says it had taken different precautionary measures to ensure that the trial was done with the highest considerations for the safety of crew, cargo, environment, and vessel. During the trial, Maersk has been in close and regular dialogue with the Northern Sea Route Administration and ice breaker companies. The crew underwent special training and was joined by Northern Sea Route certified ice Pilots during the entire transit.

All vessels entering Arctic waters must comply with the Polar Code and Maersk was keen to underline once more that this was a one-off trial designed to gain operational experience in a new area and to test vessel systems. Laursen continued:

“Currently, we do not see the Northern Sea Route as a viable commercial alternative to existing east-west routes. In general, we plan new services according to trading patterns, population centres and our customers demand.

“That said, we do follow the development of the Northern Sea Route. Today, the passage is only feasible for around three months a year which may change with time. Furthermore, we also must consider that ice-class vessels are required to make the passage, which means an additional investment.”

Maersk Line’s new fleet Baltic feeders are among the world’s largest ice-class vessels designed specifically to operate in cold waters (down to -25 degrees C), where ice-class ships equipped with mandatory stronger hulls are required to offer year-round operations. These current ships have a nominal capacity of 3,596 TEU and are equipped with 600 reefer plugs.

The Venta Maersk’s already delivered sister ships are deployed in the Maersk subsidiary Sealand (formerly known as Seago Line’s) Baltic feeder network serving Russia and calling at St. Petersburg. They have a sheltered forecastle deck for safe mooring operations in winter conditions and enclosed bridge wings for safe manoeuvring and harbour approaches. Their propeller and rudder design has been optimised for lowest fuel consumption and the vessels use marine fuel which is fully compliant with the Emission Control Area (ECA) rules, established by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

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