Thursday, October 24, 2013

Northern Sea Route Discussed in Detail at Shipping Conference

Russian Centenary Celebration Sees Talks on Future of Safety and Ecosystem in the Arctic
Shipping News Feature

ARCTIC – RUSSIA – KOREA – At a time when the future of Arctic shipping is at the forefront, Russia has highlighted the need for safety in traversing the harsh ice conditions at the recent international conference, ‘Arctic Shipping and Offshore Activities: Responding to Safety and Environmental Challenges’, which saw attendance from major players in the shipping industry including the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Mr Koji Sekimizu.

Organised as part of hosts Russian Maritime Register of Shipping’s (RS) centenary celebration, the conference called attention to the maritime community's focus on the Northern Sea Route (NSR) as a measure to reduce costs as well as time of cargo transportation, the latter resulting in a reduction of CO2 emissions, but at the same time the safety of a ship and protection of the fragile Arctic ecosystems remain the major challenges the industry is facing.

Many discussions took place at the one day event, held in St. Petersburg, including the various issues concerning the ‘Polar Code’ that will lay down mandatory basic prerequisites and requirements for transportation through the Arctic. According to Sekimizu, the Code may be implemented by IMO in 2016 or in early 2017. Speaking to IAA PortNews after the event’s end, Sekimizu said:

“I enjoyed the opportunity to navigate over the Northern Sea Route this summer and I was really impressed with the situation there; the waterway is free of ice as far as 90%.The ice-covered area is just only 10% of 1700 miles. That clearly indicates that in summer time, it is possible to allow a large number of vessels going through the Northern Sea Route. If we ensure that icebreaker support will be provided then not only vessels carrying the minerals and oil from Russia to Asian countries but also the traffic from Asia to Europe will be increased.

“The matter of safety is of utmost importance for the International Maritime Organization. Now it is a reality for us to expect that the volume of traffic over the Northern Sea Route will be increased dramatically over the coming years. It is important that international standard will be established at IMO and will be applied for every vessel which may go through the Northern Sea Route. If you ensure the application of IMO standard, safety level will be maintained. I’m convinced that IMO regulation will ensure the maintenance of the safety level for the navigation over the Northern Sea Route.”

Russia stands to gain the most from escorting vessels along the new route as the country has the only fleet of nuclear powered icebreakers, which have proved essential in keeping the waterway open for shipping. Meanwhile, after 35 days at sea, the 65,000 dwt P-MAX tanker (ice class 1A), Stena Polaris has reached her destination at the Port of Yousu, South Korea, sailing via the North-East Passage along Russia’s northern coast.

The Stena Polaris began her voyage on 17 September in the port of Ust Luga in the Gulf of Finland with a cargo of 44,000 tons of naphtha. The voyage is a joint project between Stena Bulk and South Korean Hyundai Glovis, the shipping arm of the Hyundai Group.

Photo: The Stena Polaris comes alongside the berth in South Korea