Arc7 ice-class LNG tanker, Christophe de Margerie, loaded the first batch of LNG from the Yamal plantís third train in Russia on 11 December.
In a VIP-attended ceremony at the port of Sabetta on the Yamal Peninsula, Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev used the occasion to herald the shipment as "a significant milestone for the entire Russian gas industry" as the new fleet of Arc7 tankers develop routes into Asian markets through the Northern Sea for the first time.
The prime minister also predicted that the vessels such as the Christophe de Margerie carrying Yamal-produced LNG would develop a much bigger delivery network by "stimulating the development of a transnational infrastructure, initially of the Northern Sea Route", the transport corridor connecting Europe and Asia.
"I am confident that participation in this project, now completed in the Russian Arctic, and in a number of other major projects, opens up great opportunities for our foreign partners," Mr. Medvedev said.
At last count Sovcomflot had trained over 50 crews, equivalent to 1,500 seafarers, for operations in the high-latitude Arctic and sub-Arctic seas. The Christophe de Margerie, which also transported the maiden cargo of LNG from Yamalís first train almost exactly a year ago, has now completed 16 voyages from the peninsula and delivered 1.3m tonnes of the gas. With a power capacity of 45 megawatts, comparable to that of a modern nuclear icebreaker, the vessel is also equipped with three azipod units that provide a high ice-breaking capability as well as manoeuvring ability.
Like her sister ships, the Christophe de Margerie can sail unassisted all year round along the Northern Sea Route, going westward from Yamal, as well as eastward between July and December to ports in the Asia Pacific. Until the Arc7 ice-class vessels were developed, the first purpose-designed LNG-fuelled Aframax tankers, the summer navigation window in the eastern part of the Northern Sea Route was confined to just four months Ė and even then with the support of icebreakers.