Sovcomflot LNG-powered tanker makes maiden cargo voyage
As reported earlier, Gagarin Prospect was bunkered with LNG in Rotterdam before sailing to Primorsk to load a maiden cargo of crude oil, which like namesake Yuri Gagarin, is another world first for Russia.
The operation of Gagarin Prospect and its forthcoming sister ship is part of a joint venture with Shell (the second vessel is named after the founder of Shell).
The significance is that the voyage underlines Russia’s aim for independence from the influence of future US sanctions. The LNG-powered tankers are built in Russia (with help from South Korea), operated by a Russian company, and carry Russian-derived cargoes.
This Aframax tanker is the world's first crude oil tanker designed to operate on LNG as the primary fuel. It is the lead ship of the next generation of tankers and switching to cleaner-burning LNG fuel allows Sovcomflot to significantly reduce its impact on the natural environment.
Sovcomflot is gradually switching its conventional tanker fleet from traditional heavy fuel oil to LNG to reduce its environment footprint and to comply with tightening sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions regulations, including the IMO's currently controversial global 0.5% sulphur cap, which takes effect in 2020.
Tankers fuelled with LNG emit zero SOx and particulates. They emit 76% less NOx and 27% less CO2, than similar vessels operating on heavy fuel oil.
In September 2018, Sovcomflot placed orders with Zvezda Shipbuilding Complex for two similar LNG-fuelled Aframax tankers, both of which will then be time-chartered to Rosneft for 20 years each.
Sovcomflot expects to have six such LNG-fuelled Aframax tankers in operation by the beginning of Q2 2019.
If you want to know more about Sovcomflot’s LNG-powered tanker strategy, Sovcomflot UK’s director Lord Nicholas Fairfax is on an open panel discussion at the forthcoming Tanker Shipping & Trade conference (see below).
He is one of the industry leaders providing five predictions for the tanker market for the year ahead.
In other news, it is reported in the Russian press that Chinese state-owned shipping company COSCO has made an offer to purchase 30% of Sovcomflot. This has not been confirmed by either party, but there is a precedent. China is reported to have invested US$12Bn in the Novatek project to export LNG from the Russian Arctic.