Japan's Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd (MOL) said on Wednesday that it will start transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) through the Arctic Ocean in 2018 using icebreaker LNG tankers.
MOL, with its joint venture partner China Shipping, has ordered three icebreaker LNG carriers from South Korea's Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co Ltd.
The new tankers will deliver LNG to Europe and Asia from a gas plant to be built on the Yamal Peninsula in northern Russia by Russia's second-largest gas producer Novatek, France's Total and China National Petroleum Corporation.
With the melting of sea ice due to global warming effects, the Arctic Ocean route, the shortest shipping route linking Europe and Asia, has opened up in the past few years, a MOL spokesman said.
The icebreaker tankers are expected to deliver LNG to Europe via the route all year while they will likely transport the gas to Asia only between July and November, the spokesman said.
The new route through the Arctic Ocean will enable the gas to arrive from the Yamal plant to Europe in about 11 days, and Northeast Asia including Japan in about 18 days, according to the spokesman.
Reporting by Yuka Obayashi