On Friday, 28 September 2018, Venta Maersk called the port of Saint Petersburg, Russia, successfully completing a trial passage of the Northern Sea Route.
Venta Maersk, one of Maersk Line’s new Baltic feeders, embarked on her voyage on 22 August 2018 in the port of Vladivostok, Russia. The route included further stops in Vostochny Stevedoring Company and Busan, before passing through Bering Strait on 6 September 2018 on her way to Bremerhaven.
Maersk Line’ s new Baltic feeders are among the world’s largest ice-class vessels designed specifically to operate in cold waters (down to -25 degrees C), where ice-class (stronger hull) is required to offer year-round operations. They have a nominal capacity of 3,596 TEU and is equipped with 600 reefer plugs.
“We are very happy to welcome back crew and vessel safe and sound after this unique voyage,” says Palle Laursen, Chief Technical Officer at Maersk.
“The trial allowed us to gain exceptional operational experience, test vessel systems, crew capabilities and the functionality of the shore based support setup.”
The voyage went according to plan and without specific incidents. The vessel and all systems aboard performed well in the unfamiliar environment. While the passage is feasible around this time of the year and marked by a lack of obstructive ice, ice conditions in the East Siberian Sea required assistance by icebreakers.
Maersk had taken different precautionary measures to ensure that the trial was done with the highest considerations for the safety of crew, cargo, environment, and vessel. During the trial, Maersk has been in close and regular dialogue with the Northern Sea Route Administration and ice breaker companies.
The crew also underwent special training and was joined by Northern Sea Route certified ice Pilots during the entire transit.
Maersk underlines that this was a one-off trial designed to gain operational experience in a new area and to test vessel systems:
“Currently, we do not see the Northern Sea Route as a viable commercial alternative to existing east-west routes. In general, we plan new services according to trading patterns, population centres and our customers demand,” says Palle Laursen.
“That said, we do follow the development of the Northern Sea Route. Today, the passage is only feasible for around three month a year which may change with time. Furthermore, we also must consider that ice-classed vessels are required to make the passage, which means an additional investment.”