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4 Октября 2017

RLL Container Report - 04 October 2017

From: John Keir, Ross Learmont Ltd. Email: john.keir@telia.com Date: 04 October 2017

Heading home by the Northern route.

Currently, the port of Murmansk tops the table as the busiest Arctic port with an annual throughput of 22 million tons in 2015. The port is constructing new facilities on the west side of the Kola Bay, which will include a new 46 kilometre-long railway to the new port that is currently under construction and which should be inaugurated by March 2018. At the same time, Arctic Transport and Industrial Centre Arkhangelsk signed an agreement of intent with the Beijing-based Poly International Holding Co. to construct a new deep-water port 55 kilometres north of the existing city centre facility. The port will be built near the Mudyug Island in the Dvina river delta, close to the port facilities for larger vessels.

These traditional North Russian ports have been joined by the Port of Sabetta on the Yamal peninsula, which will be capable of handling up to 30 million tons. Sabetta is already operating all-year round, ably assisted by the nuclear-powered icebreaker “Vaigach” and by a second icebreaker, which will also operate in the high Arctic. With a projected annual production capacity of 16.5 million tons of liquid gas, which will be exported around the globe, the icebreakers will be fully occupied escorting vessels along both the eastern and western routes. This explains why shipowners such as Hyundai, which plans to deploy a 3,500-teu vessel on the route, feel confident that the short Arctic passage to Northern Europe could be a viable alternative by reducing the transit time by ten days.

Hyundai’s experiment might encourage North America’s West Coast ports such as Seattle and Vancouver to “lift up their eyes” to the prospect of the new Arctic passage serving box traffic to and from northern Europe. During the month of July Vancouver, Canada’s leading Pacific terminal, handled 292,802 teu, which is an impressive increase of 47,927 teu over the same period in 2016. North American exporters would no doubt be keen not to be left behind in the race to open up this new Northern Passage, which could dramatically cut transit times and make US and Canadian exporters far more competitive in the lucrative European market.

The Port of Nome in Alaska, which is conveniently located on the southern Seward Peninsula coast on the Norton Sound of the Bering Sea, has a small container facility but does not at present appear to be equipped with gantry cranes. This is unlikely to deter the inhabitants of these two North West ports, most of whom have roots dating back to the early settlers, who reached Seattle and Vancouver by the long and arduous sea route via the Strait of Magellan. This latest generation will find itself duty-bound to complete the circle of life by opening up a new way back home to North Europe via the northern sea route.

John Keir, Ross Learmont Ltd.
04 October 2017

Copyright ©, 2017, John Keir

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