ABS Advises on Northern Sea Route Navigation

Posted by Eric Haun
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Photo: Robby Norman

ABS, a provider of global maritime classification services, today released its Navigating the Northern Sea Route Advisory to support shipowners and operators intending to transit the increasingly popular commercial shipping routes through the Arctic seas.

The comprehensive advisory, which was developed with assistance from Russia's Central Marine Research and Design Institute, provides owners with the information they need to apply for permits and to identify the possible technical and operational risks that could arise when trading in some of the world's most challenging commercial shipping environments.

"The Northern Sear Route was virtually unnavigable by all but powerful icebreakers just a few short years ago," says Todd Grove, Chief Technology Officer for ABS, noting that the Russian Federation's recent moves to encourage international shipping through the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and the melting ice floes there have opened commercial shipping opportunities. "The NSR's growing popularity has positive implications for transit times between Asia and Northern Europe," Grove explained, "but the often unpredictable and unfamiliar shipping environment through the north also poses operational and technical challenges. This Advisory was developed to provide the industry with some of the information it needs to navigate those challenges safely and efficiently, while also helping to minimize the impact on the environment."

The Advisory includes the following:

  • The Northern Sea Route
  • The Arctic environment
  • NSR Regulations
  • Winterization strategies
  • The practice of navigating in ice-covered waters
  • Ports of the NSR

Trading through the NSR has the potential to reduce the typical transit times between Japan and Rotterdam by as much as 3,400 miles - or 10 days - compared to the traditional route via the Suez Canal. This reduction brings with it commensurate gains in overall vessel utilization and reductions in bunker costs. The NSR also will provide access to the growing energy and industrial activity in northern Russia, projects that already have led to greater tanker traffic in the area and provided the impetus for several recent orders of ice-class LNG carriers for future export trades.

While the Advisory captures the latest regulatory information available at the time of publication and an overview of typical shipping conditions, it is intended strictly for informational purposes. Owners and operators interested in using the NSR should visit the Northern Sea Route Administration website (www.NSRA.ru) for the most current information, and refer to the ABS Guide for Vessels Operating in Low Temperature Environments, available for free download at www.eagle.org.

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