Moscow (AFP) Aug 25, 2010
A Russian gas tanker is this month making a historic voyage across the famed Northeast passage as receding ice opens up an elusive trade route from Asia to the West sought for centuries by explorers.
The 114,564-tonne tanker Baltica, escorted by the world's two most powerful nuclear ice breakers, sailed from Russia's northernmost port of Murmansk on August 14.
The largest vessel to ever navigate once-impassable route, the Baltica is due to deliver its cargo of gas condensate to China in the first weeks of September.
Russian television has shown the tanker making cautious progress through chunky sheets of ice in the wake of the steel-rimmed ice breakers, as a polar bear loped across ice floes within shouting distance of the ships.
"Never before has a ship of this size passed via the Northeast sea passage," said Captain Alexander Nikiforov in an interview with Russian channel NTV.
The trailblazing voyage by Russian state-owned shipping giant Sovcomflot is the latest Kremlin bid to mark out its stake over the energy-rich Arctic, where retreating ice cover amid global warming is opening new strategic trade routes.
Russia hopes to make the Arctic route a competitor to the Suez Canal and increase cargo traffic along its Siberian coast from two million tonne a year now to 30 million tonnes -- profiting off taxes and the lease of its unique fleet of nuclear ice breakers.
The Northeast passage is tens of thousands of kilometres shorter than existing routes, stretching 13,000 kilometres along Russian shores to Asia compared to the 22,000-kilometres passage via the Suez Canal, Sovcomflot said.
"The aim of the voyage is to determine the feasibility of delivering energy on a regular, economically viable and safe basis along the Northern Sea Route from the Barents and Kara Seas to the markets of Southeast Asia," Sovcomflot said in statement.
But mariners admit many obstacles remain before Russia's shipping route might steal business from established southern thoroughfares -- not least because of a summer that lasts just a few weeks.
Sovcomflot said it must find new deep-water routes to steer heavy tankers through the perilous coastal waters and contend with free-floating icebergs that make the route hard to time and unreliable.
"The summer in Arctic waters lasts 2-2.5 months. It's winter the rest of the time," chief engineer Boris Abakhov told NTV, bundled in a parka and wool hat aboard the mighty ice-breaker Rossiya.
As the tanker neared the most precarious stretch of its journey -- via the Vilkitsky Strait, leading around Siberia's northernmost tip -- mariners floated a wreath in memory of sailors who died in the icy waters, television showed.
The shallow, ice-choked strait, named after Russian explorer Boris Vilkitsky who mapped it in 1913, separates the Kara Sea from the Laptev Sea about halfway along the Siberian coastline.
In 1553, the British adventurer Sir Hugh Willoughby perished with his crew in the Arctic waters on an expedition to discover a northern route to China.
While Russia has long shipped small cargo along its sprawling Arctic shores, two German cargo ships made the first commercial trip last summer from South Korea to the Netherlands even as UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned the Arctic may be ice-less as soon as 2037.
Since a Russian expedition planted a flag at the North Pole in 2007, the five Arctic nations -- Russia, the United States, Norway, Denmark and Canada -- have grown more vocal in their competing claims over swaths of the energy-rich territory.
Share This Article With Planet Earth
Powering The World in the 21st Century at Energy-Daily.com
London (AFP) Aug 24, 2010
Scottish exploration group Cairn Energy said Tuesday it has discovered gas in offshore Greenland, amid environmental protests by Greenpeace to stop its operations near the nation's fragile coast. Cairn revealed the discovery alongside news of a return to profit in the first half of 2010 while uncertainty over its recent deal to sell a majority stake in its Indian unit, Cairn India, to mining ... read more
China's hydropower capacity up 50 percent by 2015: report|
Iranian energy sector attracts investment
Britain to lobby for energy deals abroad?
Power cuts and high prices spark Ramadan ire in Egypt
Hi-Tech Rechargeable Batteries Developed For Military
200-Fold Boost In Fuel Cell Efficiency Advances 'Personalized Energy Systems'
First Russian gas tanker forges Arctic passage to China
US mounts global push for shale gas
Duke Energy Changes Focus Of Coastal Wind Demonstration Project With UNC
U.K. wind farms deny causing seal deaths
Mortenson Construction Building 100 Turbine Wind Farm In Illinois
Canada looks to utilize wind energy
Unveil New Mexico's Largest Solar Array At The Bell Group Headquarters
FPL Changes Space Coast Skyline To Add New, Clean Energy Center
Self-Cleaning Technology From Mars Can Keep Terrestrial Solar Panels Dust Free
Ohio's Largest Solar Farm
Egypt announces site of planned nuclear plant
Indian nuclear bill clears parliament
Russian protesters condemn nuclear waste plan
DNA of Chernobyl animals studied
METRO Applauds Mayor Bloomberg For Signing NYC Biodiesel Heating Oil Legislation Into Law
Genes That Promise To Make Biofuel Production More Efficient, Economical
Biomass Plant To Produce Steam And Electricity Considered
Indonesia palm oil giant defends record
China Finishes Construction Of First Unmanned Space Module
China Contributes To Space-Based Information Access A Lot
China Sends Research Satellite Into Space
China eyes Argentina for space antenna
Russian drought to slow economic recovery
German scientist hands Putin frosty climate rebuke
Drought likely hit Philippine growth, says official
New Computer Model Advances Climate Change Research
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement|