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Northeast Passage opened by heavy lift shipping

August 10 - While the famed North West passage across the top of North America is often discussed as a shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, less well known is the potential 12,800 km Northeast Passage across the top of Russia.

A heavy lift line is set to become the first to be given permission to traverse the passage when it delivers project cargo to the Siberian port of Novvy.

Beluga's 12,744dwt F class ships will become the first non-Russian flagged commercial ships to use the normally frozen-shut passage when they travel from Ulsan, South Korea. After Novvy, the ships will call at Murmansk and Rotterdam.

Using the Northeast Passage will cut 4,000 nautical miles off the journey between Japan and Germany. Use of the route avoids the passage of the Suez Canal. The route was first sailed, without wintering en route, in 1932. Following the decline and end of the Soviet Union, the route was closed.

The Beluga Fraternity departed Ulsan, South Korea on July 23 and anchored in Vladivostok for clearance to enter the passage. The Beluga Foresight is scheduled to make the trip later this summer.

The ice-class vessels Beluga Family, Beluga Fraternity and Beluga Foresight have combinable crane capacities of 300 to 360 tonnes each and will be moving equipment for a power plant to be built in Surgut, Siberia. The equipment, including two generators weighing more than 270 tonnes and 44 power plant modules weighing more than 100 tonnes each, will be transhipped to barges at Novvy.

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