Icebreakers and heavy-lift vessels head slowly along Northern Sea Route

A convoy of two nuclear icebreakers and two polar-class heavy lift vessels (the Audax (IMO 9763837)and Pugnax (IMO 9763849)) has been making slow but steady progress through Russia’s Arctic waters, carrying the final modules for the second train of Novatek’s Arctic LNG 2 project.

The heavy-lift vessels are operated by Singaporean Red Box. They loaded two 10,000-ton prefabricated modules at the Penglai shipyard in East China in early January. They then headed north through the Bering Strait before rendezvousing with Russia’s newest and most powerful nuclear icebreaker, the Arktika, in the Chukchi Sea.

However, it being January, pack ice conditions were tough. The convoy moved slowly, making less than five miles’ progress during one 24-hour period.

AIS vessel tracking data shows Arktika repeatedly traveling back and forth between the two cargo ships, freeing them from the compression of the floes. But these close up rapidly. Therefore, in order to speed up the voyage , Russia’s nuclear icebreaker fleet operator Amflot sent a back-up, the nuclear icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy (IMO 9152959). It linked up with the convoy late last week and was now leading the way ahead of Arktika. That will enable one icebreaker per ship.

The four vessels are currently the only ships operating in the eastern reaches of Russia’s Northern Sea Route, where ice thickness measures about 1.5 metres during winter.

The journey is taking place during the depths of winter (the oceans in the northern hemisphere are at their coldest in February) because Audax and Pugnax are carrying key modules needed by Novatek to complete the second train of its Arctic LNG 2 project. A third module is travelling via the Indian Ocean and the Cape of Good Hope on heavy lift vessel Hunter Star.

All three ships are expected to deliver their cargo to Novatek’s assembly yard outside Murmansk in late February.

2016-built, Singapore-flagged, 34,146 gt Audax is owned by Fortune MC Hercules Shipping care of manager Red Box Energy Services Pte Ltd of Singapore. ISM manager is RBEX BV of Rotterdam, Netherlands.

2016-built, Singapore-flagged, 34,136 gt Pugnax is owned by Fortune MC Titan Shipping Ltd of Singapore.; Management is the same as for the Audax.

2007-built, Russia-flagged, 23439 gt 50 Let Pobedy is owned by the Russian government and operated by Atomflot of Murmansk, Russia.