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Yamal LNG's carriers pass Northern Sea Route in 9 days on way to China

Moscow — Russian Novatek-led Yamal LNG project has sent two Arc7 ice-class LNG carriers destined to China via the Northern Sea Route in just nine days with no icebreaking support, marking the start of regular LNG shipments without an icebreaking escort, Novatek said Friday.

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The Vladimir Rusanov tanker passed the NSR and arrived at the Bering Strait, while the Eduard Toll vessel entered open water in the Chukchi Sea, Novatek said.

Both tankers were dispatched from the port of Sabetta on the Kara Sea -- from the first 5.5 million mt/year train of the Yamal LNG project launched late 2017 -- and are now heading towards the Chinese port of Jiangsu Rudong, it said in a statement.

"The ice-covered part of the route was passed in only nine days with no icebreaking support, thus confirming the outstanding icebreaking capabilities of the Arc7 ice-class vessels," it said.

The Vladimir Rusanov left Sabetta port on June 25, S&P Global Platts reported previously.

"We are happy that the Arc7 ice-class tankers with LNG produced by our Yamal LNG project opened this year's summer navigational period on the Northern Sea Route," Novatek CEO Leonid Mikhelson said in the statement.

"These shipments were the first voyages with Russian LNG via the Northern Sea Route without escort of an icebreaker. Moreover, they mark the start of regular LNG shipments via the Northern Sea Route, which was only made possible due to the unique characteristics of ice-class LNG carriers developed for Novatek to serve the Arctic projects."

A total of five cargoes from the Yamal LNG project are expected to transit the NSR and arrive in Northeast Asia in July, according to a source close to the matter.

Of the five cargoes, three were allocated to Novatek, while single cargoes were allocated to other shareholders, namely China's CNPC and France's Total.

Since the start of the year, the project has been loading cargoes every four to eight days aboard its fleet of specialized icebreaker vessels for delivery into Northwest Europe.

A total of 33 cargoes have been shipped aboard the fleet of five specialized Arc7 LNG tankers since the start of operations.

Some cargoes have remained in Europe, while others were loaded via transshipment onto traditional LNG vessels for onward sailing to more premium markets, particularly in the Middle East and Asia.

The second 5.5 million mt/year train at Yamal LNG is currently being commissioned and is expected to come online in September or October. The third 5.5 million mt/year train will start up in early 2019.

Novatek plans to build a total of 15 Arc7 tankers by 2022, up from seven vessels in 2018.

Yamal LNG is a joint venture between Novatek (50.1%), Total (20%), CNPC (20%) and Silk Road Fund (9.9%).

-- Nadia Rodova, nadia.rodova@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Irene Tang, irene.tang@spglobal.com