Four more tankers carrying Russian oil take Arctic route to China

Russia continues to send crude oil tankers to China via the Arctic. During the past month six vessels have departed northern Russian ports, heading to China via Arctic ice.

Two crude oil tankers had begun a Northern Sea Route (NSR) journey in mid-July, and four more oil tankers have started their journey since then.

Two Aframax tankers, the SCF Baltica (IMO 9305568) and Korolev Prospect (IMO 9826902) departed Umba Floating Storage Offloading Vessel (FSO) near Murmansk, each carrying around 750,000 barrels of crude. The SCF Baltica departed on July 30th and is bound for Tianjin in northern China. The ship holds an Arc5 ice-class, which enables it to operate independently in light and medium ice conditions. The 113,232-dwt Arc4 crude tanker Korolev Prospect departed Umba FSO on August 7th, en route to Ningbo, in eastern China.

These levels of crude oil shipments to China, or indeed anywhere else to Asia via the Arctic, is far greater than had been seen in previous summers. Viktor Katona, analyst at commodities data and analytics firm Kpler sad that the 87 kbd of crude exports that sailed via the NSR from Russia compared with the previous monthly record of 16 kbd, “aka one tanker”.

The increase in NSR activity has also extended to shuttle tankers. These vessels routinely transport oil from the Novoportovskoye and Prirazlomnoye fields in Russia’s western Arctic to the Umba FSO near Murmansk. The oil is then usually reloaded onto larger vessels for the long-distance trips.

The 41,458-dwt Arc7 (the higher the number, the more resistant the hull to the ice) Shturman Koshelev (IMO 9759939) picked up crude at the Arctic Gate terminal in the Gulf of Ob on July 29th, departing for Huizhou, in southern China. Katona said that “What is odd about the likes of Shturman Koshelev doing the full NSR is that these are shuttle tankers that have been historically used to connect the Novoportovskoye and Prirazlomnoye fields, so it seems the Russians have the bandwidth to move shuttle tankers to China, too”.

The shuttle tankers serving Russian Arctic oil projects are tailored for year-round service, but that makes them less optimal for long-distance deliveries. Another shuttle tanker, 49,999-dwt Arc4 chemical/oil products tanker SCF Irtysh (IMO 9397535), recently departed St Petersburg and was traveling up the Norwegian coastline bound for Zhuhai, also in southern China.

While all crude oil shipments going through the NSR this year to date have been aboard ice-capable vessels. It was possible that this would change in the next couple of months. Earlier this year Russian officials stated their intention to use non-ice class tankers to ship oil across the Arctic.

Challenging ice conditions in the East Siberian Sea have slowed down the previously mentioned initial two shipments that departed in mid-July. Crude oil tankers NS Arctic (IMO 9413547) and Primorsky Prospect (IMO 9511533) had been holding to the east of the New Siberian Islands for the past week, as both ships’ Ice3 ice class is too low to permit them to travel through the predominant ice conditions, even with icebreaker escort.

2005-built, Liberia-flagged, 65,293 gt SCF Baltica is owned by Ashbourne Navigation Ltd care of manager Sun Ship Management of Dubai, UAE. It left Murmansk on July 30th.

2019-built, Liberia-flagged, 64,909 gt Korolev Prospect is owned by Kismet ventures Ltd care of Sun Ship Management of Dubai, UAE. It departed Murmansk on August 8th, en route to Ningbo, China, ETA September 1st.

2017-built, Russia-flagged, 44,354 gt Shturman Kodhelev is owned by Shturman Koshelev LLC care of manager Gazpromneft Shipping LLC of St Petersburg, Russia. It departed Mys Kamenny, Russia, on July 29th en route to Sabetta, Russia, ETA August 25th.

2009-built, Liberia-flagged, 29,967 gt SCF Irtysh is owned by Skyler SA care of Sun Ship management of Dubai, UAE. It departed Ust-Luga, Russia, on August 5th, en route to Zhuhai, China, ETA September 6th. As of August 14th it was off the Norwegian Coast, heading north.

20-built, Liberia-flagged, 62,372 gt NS Arctic Shipping Inc is owned by NS Arctic Shipping Inc care of Sun Ship Management of Dubai, UAE. It departed Primorsk on July 14th en route to Rizhao, China, ETA August 28th.

2010-built, Liberia-flagged, 62,504 gt Primorsky Prospect is owned by Shardlow Maritime Ltd care of Sun Ship Management of Dubai, UAE. It departed Ust-Luga on July 12th en route to Dalian, China, ETA August 28th. As of August 14th it was off the Norwegian Coast, heading north.