Three oil tankers will meet up shortly within the Arctic waters of the Kara Sea, signaling that the navigation season alongside Russia’s Northern Sea Route is open for enterprise.
Two Aframax tankers, every hauling about 730,000 barrels of Urals crude from the Baltic ports of Primorsk and Ust-Luga, are heading east to Rizhao in China. A 3rd similar-sized ship, crusing in ballast, is coming in the wrong way, having began its newest voyage from the Chinese language port of Yinkou, based on vessel-tracking information monitored by Bloomberg.
Tapping the Northern Sea Route can sharply cut back the journey time from Russia’s Baltic ports to refiners in northern China, making it seemingly that extra Russian crude carriers will make such voyages within the coming months, most likely assisted by ice breakers.
The empty vessel, the SCF Baltica, escorted by the nuclear-powered ice breaker Sibir, left southern China on June 27, heading for the Russian port of Kozmino on the nation’s Pacific coast.
Moderately than taking over a cargo of ESPO grade crude and heading again to China, like most tankers calling on the port, the SCF Baltica headed off northeast, passing between Sakhalin Island and Japan earlier than skirting the Kamchatka Peninsula and getting into the Arctic Ocean by way of the Bering Strait that separates Russia from Alaska.
As soon as within the Arctic seas, the tanker picked up its ice-breaking escort and headed west alongside Russia’s northern coast. After a 10-day journey from the Bering Strait, the ice breaker is ready to rendezvous with the Primorsky Prospect and the NS Arctic about 170 miles east of the island of Novaya Zemlya and 250 miles north of the mouth of the Yenisei River.
The Primorsky Prospect has been idling there since Sunday night, and the NS Arctic ought to arrive someday on Tuesday morning. The Sibir will seemingly flip again east and escort the 2 fully-laden tankers by way of the icy waters to the Bering Strait. The SCF Baltica will proceed its journey to Russia’s Arctic port of Murmansk, the place it’s scheduled to reach on Wednesday night to tackle its subsequent cargo of Russian crude.
The tankers, all owned by Russia’s Sovcomflot PJSC, aren’t probably the most trendy vessels it owns, their ages starting from 13 to 18 years. However, in contrast to a lot of the shadow fleet of tankers that has emerged to hold Russian oil because the European Union, the US and the UK imposed sanctions in December 2022, all are rated to function in icy situations.
Utilizing the Northern Sea Route can minimize the journey time from Russia’s Baltic ports to refiners in northern China by as a lot as two weeks, or about 30 p.c, in contrast with a voyage round Europe and thru the Suez Canal and Strait of Malacca.
However vessels with an ice score of Ice3 or beneath can solely use the route between July and the top of November.
With out entry to a lot of the world’s tanker fleet, which is barred from carrying Russian crude that was purchased at costs above $60 a barrel, every single day saved on deliveries of oil to Moscow’s solely remaining giant markets – China and India – is vital.
It’s seemingly that extra Russian crude will head throughout the highest of the world within the coming months, most likely in small convoys with ice-breaker help. However the quantity could also be restricted by the supply of escort vessels.
Russia’s older nuclear-powered ice breakers are used to hold vacationers to the North Pole, or to assist oil terminals within the Kara Sea and on the Yamal Peninsula. The nation at present has solely three trendy vessels to escort tankers by way of the Arctic. It seems to be like they’re going to be in excessive demand.