by Christine Williams, Russell Ollis & Marina Dickson
Late August of this year, the Russian tanker Christophe de Margerie became the first merchant ship to sail across the Arctic Sea without the aid of an icebreaker. It arrived successfully at a South Korean port after a record voyage between Europe and Asia of less than three weeks, about 30 percent faster than the Suez Canal route. The Daewoo ship completed the Northern Sea Route – the northernmost part of the trip between two remote Russian ports – in a record-breaking six-and-a-half days. The 80,000 deadweight vessel is an ice-class Arc7, the highest rating among marine transport vessels, with an icebreaking capability of up to 2.5 meters thick. The Christophe de Margerie is the first out of 15 ice-class tankers being produced by South Korea’s Daewoo with each vessel having the capacity to transport 170,000 cubic meters of liquid natural gas (LNG).