Suez, Africa, NSR: the benefits are obvious

Data from analysts of Kpler and Marine Traffic Systems indicate that this spring, tankers with LNG from Leningrad Oblast to China began its trip along the west coast of Africa and the Cape of Good Hope, avoiding the Suez Canal and the Red Sea. The route has become one and a half times longer than previous one. It used to take 30 days to travel through Suez, now it takes 45.

However, summer time is near in the Arctic and this long route from Europe to Asia can be significantly shortened. In summer, ice conditions along the NSR gradually begin to improve, reaching maximum favorable values by September. Just during this period, cargo from Baltic Sea ports can reach China in only 25 days.

In August and September 2023, Gazprom has already tested LNG shipments to China via the Arctic. “Great Novgorod,” a gas tanker, received a cargo shipment at the Portovaya complex in Leningrad Oblast in mid-August, sailed through the NSR and unloaded at the Tangshan regasification terminal in China in mid-September.

Tankers can’t still deliver cargoes via the NSR to China all year round. The requirements to the ice class of ships in the Arctic are special. In addition, the most powerful nuclear icebreaker “Russia” is still under construction. When it is built, the NSR will be really year-round and commercially profitable.

Undoubtedly, the Russian nuclear fleet is the largest in the world. It includes 34 diesel and 7 nuclear icebreakers. This is more than the United States, Canada, Finland, Denmark, Sweden and China have all together. However, this is not enough. Russia needs “Russia” not only because it is the most powerful, but also the widest icebreaker. Width is especially important in the Arctic. All gas tankers must be of high ice class to have the right to pass through the northern seas. But such tankers are wider than the existing icebreakers. Therefore, tankers can’t follow icebreakers through the NSR all year round. China still has to wait longer for its cargo and pay more for it. “Russia” will be able not only to pass through polar ice at great speed, but also to make a wide ice hole for following tankers.

The route through the Suez Canal will be unsafe and unreliable for a long time if we look at the current conflict in the Middle East. Land transportation is always more expensive than by sea. That is why Russia is betting on the NSR and inviting China to the development of this route. Obviously, other investors will be welcome in Russia as well.

In just a month, the ice conditions along the NSR will get better. This means business from Europe and Asia will be able to take advantage of the benefits that Russia is ready to give. Analysts have calculated that when ships go around Africa, transportation costs for companies can increase by $21-100 for each thousand cubic meters of cargo. It turns out that the NSR is a great opportunity to save money in summer and fall. It is likely that China will not miss such an opportunity. After the comission of “Russia,” this opportunity will become year-round. It shouldn’t believe in fairy tales that tomorrow ice will melt in the Arctic, icebreakers will become unnecessary, and anyone will be able to supply cargo from Europe to Asia and back with any vessels in February, even if these vessels will have the lowest ice class. Scientists say that this situation will not happen. But there will be a “Russia,” which can make this fairy tale come true.

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