Cargo Business News

February 2014

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18 S February 2014 By CBn Canadian Contributing editor Fred MCCAgue Arctic shipping routes develop at top of the world Arctic shipping routes develop at Arctic shipping routes develop at top of the world top of the world top of the world Arctic shipping routes develop at Arctic shipping routes develop at top of the world top of the world Arctic shipping routes develop at Arctic shipping routes develop at top of the world top of the world top of the world top of the world top of the world top of the world top of the world top of the world top of the world There are two Arctic routes from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Both begin at the Bering Strait. The fabled Northwest Passage heads via Alaska to the maze of Canada's Arctic Archipelago, then into Baffin Bay. The Northern Sea Route or Northeast Passage is via Siberia to Europe. Both are beginning to become viable commercial routes. Oil, gas and mining development is occurring along the length of both routes. The Northwest Passage On September 6, 2013, the Panamax bulk carrier Nordic Orion sailed from Neptune Terminals in Vancouver with 73,500 metric tons of metallurgical coal on a historic voyage bound for Pori, Finland via the Northwest Passage. The coal was mined by Teck Resources Ltd. in the Canadian Rockies. The buyer was Ruukki Metals Oy of Finland. It was the first commercial cargo shipment through the route. Nordic Orion was designed for ice operations. Strengthened for ice, but not an icebreaker, the ship was built to DNV Ice Class 1A in 2011 in Japan, and has extra power in the form of an 18,420 bhp main engine. In a telephone interview, Christian Bonfils, managing director of Nordic Bulk Carriers A/S of Hellerup, Denmark, said, "We had known for about six months that we had the contract to carry the coal. However, planning began about three months before loading. We studied both the Northern Sea Route (the Northeast Passage across northern Russia) and the Northwest Passage." After discussions with and encouraged by Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard, he said the Northwest Passage was chosen. Insurance was arranged. "Yes, we paid a premium, but, it was not that difficult to convince them," he said, citing the company's ice-related background, "We keep active in the Arctic." Once loaded, the ship was committed. With 73,500 metric tons of coal and a draft of 47 feet, the ship carried 15,000 tons more coal than the maximum permitted canal draft of 39 feet. The draft of the Nordic Orion was second only to the tanker Manhattan on her famous 1969 voyage, where the tanker was ballasted down to about 52 feet to simulate a full load of oil during her trial run to test the practicality of shipping oil from Prudhoe Bay to the East Coast. On September 14, maintaining a steady economic speed of about 13 knots in open water, the ship sailed through Bering Strait, crossing the Arctic Circle four hours later. It rounded Point Barrow to enter the Beaufort Sea, steering 110 o until past the Canadian border on September 16. Except for some ice at the entrance to Amundsen Gulf, the ship was in open water past Cambridge Bay, then through open water and light ice in Larsen Sound and Franklin Strait, bound for the heavier ice in Peel Sound. On September 20, the Canadian icebreaker Louis S. St. Laurent met up with the Nordic Orion in Peel Sound. The Canadian Coast Guard advises the icebreaker "provided 39 hours of routine escort services through the area." Bonfils indicated the ice was fairly light, although the ships did slow to about 4 knots in the thicker areas. In Barrow Strait, south of Resolute, Nordic Orion reached 74 o 41'N, the most northerly point of her voyage on the Northwest Passage. From there it was open water through Lancaster Sound, clearing the Northwest Passage on September 22 as the ship entered Baffin Bay. The ship crossed the Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic to the Port of Pori, Finland, arriving on October 8. From Vancouver to Pori, the total distance was about 8,200 nautical miles, roughly 1,000 nm shorter than via Panama. Bonfils noted Panama Canal dues for a ship the size of Nordic Orion are in the range of $135,000, and the ship saved about four days sailing time. However, the Northwest Passage was only the final half of a pioneering voyage. It began much earlier. After discharging iron ore from Norway at Ijmuiden, Netherlands, Nordic Orion sailed in ballast on June 19 to Murmansk, Russia. On July 1, after loading 66,000 tons of iron ore, the ship departed Murmansk, heading northeast for two days, reaching above 77 o N while rounding Cape Zhelaniya, the northern tip of Severny Island, northern-most in the Novaya Zemlya chain, to officially enter Russia's Northern Sea Route (sometimes called the Northeast Passage). The ship spent

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